Safety of selenium exposure and limitations of selenoprotein maximization: Molecular and epidemiologic perspectives

Marco Vinceti, Tommaso Filippini, Ewa Jablonska, Yoshiro Saito, Lauren A. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Recent evidence from laboratory and epidemiologic studies has shed a different light on selenium health effects and its recommended range of environmental exposure, compared with earlier research. Specifically, epidemiologic studies in Western populations have shown adverse effects of selenium exposure at low levels, sometimes below or slightly above selenium intakes needed to maximize selenoprotein expression and activity. In addition, three recent lines of evidence in molecular and biochemical studies suggest some potential drawbacks associated with selenoprotein maximization: 1) the possibility that selenoprotein upregulation is a compensatory response to oxidative challenge, induced by selenium itself or other oxidants; 2) the capacity of selenoproteins to trigger tumor growth in some circumstances; and 3) the deleterious metabolic effects of selenoproteins and particularly of selenoprotein P. The last observation provides a toxicological basis to explain why in humans selenium intake levels as low as 60 μg/day, still in the range of selenium exposure upregulating selenoprotein expression, might start to increase risk of type 2 diabetes. Overall, these new pieces of evidence from the literature call into question the purported benefit of selenoprotein maximization, and indicate the need to reassess selenium dietary reference values and upper intake level. This reassessment should clarify which range of selenoprotein upregulation follows restoration of adequate selenium availability and which range is driven by a compensatory response to selenium toxicity and oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113092
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Aug


  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Environment
  • Epidemiology
  • Health risk assessment
  • Neurological disease
  • Selenium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Safety of selenium exposure and limitations of selenoprotein maximization: Molecular and epidemiologic perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this