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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Selenium Accumulation in Meat: Health Benefit Or Toxin?

Author
item Finley, John

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 1, 2000
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Selenium is an essential trace element with many potential health benefits including improvement of psychological function, protection against degenerative heart disease (in humans) and muscle disease (in animals), and protection against certain cancers. Most of the selenium in the North American diet is supplied by meat or grain products. Specifically, beef supplies the greatest amount of selenium of any individual dietary component. The health benefits of selenium in meat have not been well studied. Limited reports show that selenium from meat improves psychological function and increases the total amount of selenium in the body. However, no one has studied the potential anti-cancer activity of selenium in meat. Further research is needed to determine whether the selenium in meat is as effective as other forms of selenium in health- promoting abilities.

Technical Abstract: Selenium (Se) is an essential nutrient with many potential health benefits for humans, including protection against some cancers, enhancement of neuro-psychological function and maintenance of a healthy immune system. Dietary Se is present in a variety of chemical forms and many of its biological actions depend on the chemical form that is consumed. Meat and meat products, especially beef, are a primary source of dietary Se for humans. However, the Se content of meat reflects the selenium content of the soil where feed for the animal was produced, and consequently, the actual contribution to the diet of Se from meat may range from little to a majority of dietary Se. Selenium from meat has been called a highly bioavailable source because it is very effective in restoring Se concentrations and the glutathione peroxidase enzyme activities in tissues. However, bioavailability assessed in such a manner may have little association with other biological activities of Se, especially cancer reduction, and specific studies must address the ability of meat to provide Se that is used for these functions.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014