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Health News Archive 529 - Cognitive Decline
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Selenium Supplements Slow Age-related Cognitive Decline

The decline of mental function that naturally occurs with age may be increased by falling selenium levels, suggests new research from France. The epidemiological study, published in the current issue of the journal Epidemiology, could help further increase public awareness of a mineral already associated with reducing the risk of prostate and lung cancer, as well as boosting the immune system.

Cognitive performance declines naturally with age, but the results of the longitudinal study suggest that this may be slowed by selenium supplementation. “Because brain oxidative stress is a cause of cognitive impairment, selenium, which is an antioxidant, may protect against cognitive decline,” wrote lead author N. Tasnime Akbaraly, from the University of Montpellier.

The results are particularly important because European selenium levels have been falling since the EU imposed levies on wheat imports from the US, where soil selenium levels are high. As a result, average intake of selenium in the UK has fallen from 60 to 34 micrograms per day, leading to calls from some to enrich soil and fertilizers with selenium to boost public consumption.

Researchers recruited 1389 older subjects aged between 60 and 71 at the start of the study and investigated changes in their cognitive function and selenium levels. The average baseline blood selenium level was 1.09 micromoles per litre, and levels were found to generally decrease during the nine years of follow-up.

Adjusting the results for potential confounders, the researchers report that cognitive decline was associated with decreases of plasma selenium over time.  “Among subjects who had a decrease in their plasma selenium levels, the greater the decrease in plasma selenium, the higher the probability of cognitive decline,” said Akbaraly. “Among subjects who had an increase in their plasma selenium levels, cognitive decline was greater in subjects with the smallest selenium increase.”

Source: N.T. Akbaraly, I. Hininger-Favier, I. Carriere, J. Arnaud, V. Gourlet, A-M. Roussel, C. Berr. Plasma Selenium Over Time and Cognitive Decline in the Elderly Epidemiology; January 2007, Volume 18, Number 1, Pages 52-58

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