We love working with Pharmanord, one of Europe’s leading providers of essential nutrition products. They always provide us with fantastic scientific information on how readers can boost their wellbeing. In our Summer 2020 issue, they shared some very pertinent details about the virus-fighting potential of selenium. Read on for the full scoop!
The Viral Fighter
Exploring the benefits of selenium
Selenium is an essential trace element obtained from dietary sources such as fish, meat, nuts and cereals, which has been found to affect the severity of a number of viral diseases. For example, selenium status in those with HIV has been shown to be an important factor in the progression of the virus. China is known to have populations with both the lowest and highest selenium status in the world, due to geographical differences in the soil that affect the amount of this trace element in the food chain.
A belt of selenium deficiency running from northeast to southwest in China has contributed to the prevalence of Keshan disease – a condition named after the area in northeast China where it was most endemic. According to a study published in the Molecular Nutrition Food Research journal, the disease showed a seasonal variation, suggesting a viral cofactor that was later identified as coxsackievirus B3. When the population was supplemented with selenium, the incidence of Keshan disease decreased dramatically.
Significant clinical benefits of selenium supplementation have also been demonstrated in other viral infections. Given this established link, researchers were curious about whether selenium status could be a relevant factor in the spread of COVID-19.
An international team of researchers, led by Professor Margaret Rayman, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey, has now identified a link between the COVID-19 cure rate and regional selenium status in China. Professor Rayman said; “Given the history of viral infections associated with selenium deficiency, we wondered whether the appearance of COVID-19 in China could possibly be linked to the belt of selenium deficiency that runs from the north-east to the south-west of the country.”
The team’s findings – which were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – demonstrated that areas with high levels of selenium were more likely to recover from the virus. For example, in the city of Enshi in Hubei Province, which has the highest selenium intake in China, the cure rate (percentage of COVID-19 patients declared ‘cured’) was almost three-times higher than the average for all the other cities in Hubei Province.
Kate Bennett, a medical statistician at the University of Surrey, said; “There is a significant link between selenium status and COVID-19 cure rate, however it is important not to overstate this finding; we have not been able to work with individual level data and have not been able to take account of other possible factors such as age and underlying disease.”
Ramy Saad, a doctor at Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, currently taking an MSc degree in Nutritional Medicine at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Surrey, commented; “The correlation we have identified is compelling, particularly given previous research on selenium and infectious diseases. As such, a careful and thorough assessment of the role selenium may play in COVID-19 is certainly justified and may help to guide ongoing public health decisions”.