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 Professor Paula Drosescu MD PhD
Societatea Romana de Medicina Sportiva

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The deficit of selenium in alimentation and the risk of cardiovascular diseases

A correlation between the deficit of selenium in alimentation and the risk of cardiovascular diseases was established on the basis of six European studies (four carried out in Finland, one in Norway, and one in Holland ). The undertaking of these studies in Northern European countries is not a result of hazardous fate, but of the fact that the soil in these countries is very poor in selenium (particularly in Finland), and there is also a very high incidence of cardiovascular diseases. The studies were carried out for a period of time of 5 – 7 years, and during this period the new cases of cardiovascular diseases and the mortality rate from these diseases were thoroughly monitored. The correlation between the decrease of the levels of selenium in blood and the increased cardiovascular incidence is significant in three of the studies (even though two of them imply minor methodology shortcomings). The third study showed that although the selenium quantity in the soil was relatively high, the selenium levels in blood were subnormal.
O. Oster (Germany) pointed out and summed up the clinical incidence of the selenium deficit upon the cardiovascular diseases, that these studies refer to, in the following way:
 - In the congestive cardiomiopathies and coronaropathies and acute myocardium infarctions, the seric selenium concentrations were lower as compared to those of the healthy groups considered as witnesses. During the myocardium infarction, the significant drop in the selenium percentage did not reflect the gravity of the coronaropathy, while the erythrocyte selenium contents is a faithful reflection of the risk of the myocardium infarction.
 - On the whole, selenium has protective effects against the cardiovascular diseases. This can be explained by the high contents of selenium protectors in the myocardium and by the role of glutathione in the platelet hemostasis.
 - Keshan disease, described by the Chinese, is closely related to the selenium input. This disease, first observed in the Keshan area, can have several clinical forms, as described in the documents related to the Chinese – Japanese war;
  • it can act as a super – acute infection characterized by violent uncontrollable vomiting, that leads to a sudden death
  • a chronic form associates the myocardium dilatation with cardiac decompensation
  • a  subacute form that manifests itself only after it has been latent for a certain while, associated with cardiogenic shock and progressive cardiac decompensation.
 - In its initial stage, the Keshan disease causes a myocardium arrest with rapid evolution. The cardiac muscle compensates, until both ventricles are simultaneously affected. The cardiogenic shock occurs, and it is followed by a sudden drop in arterial pressure. An endothelial necrosis develops, while the skeletal muscles, the digestive tract, the neurons, the lungs and the endocrine glands are affected. It is easy to explain all these diffuse pathological changes, as they all have a common denominator: the excess of free radicals caused by the lack of selenium.
 - The Kershan disease is frequently encountered in pregnant women and babies, who need high doses of selenium.
 - Following a high number of clinical and epidemiological observations, it can be stated that the mineral content of the soil on which plants grow and animals feed and the quality of alimentary products obtained from their sacrifice are closely related
 - Thus, it can be explained why sudden death is rare in the coastal villages of Keshan , and sudden death is very frequent in the highlands, where the soil is prone to a high erosion process that impairs its content in selenium. The inhabitants of these highlands mostly eat corn, and very little meat, eggs and fish.
 - The Chinese authorities have decided, in the year 1979, after prolonged investigations, to  supplement the diet of these populations with sodium selenite. Ten million victims of the Keshan disease were saved this way, provided they continue to take their selenium supplements.


It is unfortunately true that, in Romania, the importance of selenium to the human organism is still little known. Even if, theoretically, the effects of the deficit / excess of selenium on human health can be inferred, the Romanian experience cannot yet supply experiments and practical proof regarding the effect of selenium. Even so, one thing is clear: selenium is indispensable to life. Selenium intake in the human body is based on aliments. Romania currently produces alimentary concentrated premixes containing selenium.
Professor Paula Drosescu, MD. PhD
Faculty of Physical Education and Sports
“Al. I. Cuza” University Iasi
December 2, 2009
Medical Cabinet Alternative Iasi
Associate Certified Coach ICF

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