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High levels of selenium enzyme could promote diabetes

A study by researchers at Cornell suggests that higher-than-normal amounts of a selenium-containing enzyme could promote type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that mice with elevated levels of the antioxidant enzyme develop the precursors of diabetes at much higher rates than did control mice.

Selenium, a common dietary supplement, is an antioxidant -- materials that help mop up harmful free radicals, molecules that can damage cell membranes and genetic material and contribute to the development of cancer and heart disease. Many of the benefits of selenium are related to its role in the production of glutathione peroxidase (GP), an antioxidant enzyme that helps detoxify the body.

"Although free radicals are known to be harmful and antioxidants helpful, our study suggests that we actually need some free radicals to regulate insulin sensitivity," said Xingen Lei, associate professor of animal science at Cornell and an author of the study.

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Selenium and prostate cancer

Study shows high selenium levels in blood associated with 48 percent decreased risk of advanced prostate cancer. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have demonstrated that the mineral selenium, found in many foods such as whole grains, meat, seafood and nuts, is strongly associated with a reduced risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. The large-scale prospective analysis suggests that higher levels of selenium may play a pivotal role in slowing tumor growth and the evidence is mounting that this food component may one day become a key cancer-fighting agent.

“Our research showed that men with the highest levels of selenium in their blood prior to diagnosis were 48 percent less likely to suffer from an aggressive form of prostate cancer down the road,” said study lead author Haojie Li, MD, PhD, BWH epidemiologist and a research fellow at Harvard Medical School. “Overall, the protective effect of selenium was most pronounced in patients who fell into the higher risk group based on their PSA (prostate specific antigen) level.” Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American men.

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