British Journal of Nutrition

Review article

The use of high-selenium yeast to raise selenium status: how does it measure up?

Margaret P. Raymana1 c1

a1 Centre for Nutrition and Food Safety, School of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK

Abstract

Selenium-enriched yeast (Se-yeast) is a common form of Se used to supplement the dietary intake of this important trace mineral. However, its availability within the European Union is under threat, owing to concerns expressed by the European Community (EC) Scientific Committee on Food that Se-yeast supplements are poorly characterised and could potentially cause the build up of Se in tissues to toxic levels. The present review examines the validity of these concerns. Diagrams of the biosynthesis and metabolism of Se compounds show which species can be expected to occur in Se-yeast preparations. Se-yeast manufacture is described together with quality-control measures applied by reputable manufacturers. The way in which speciation of Se-yeast is achieved is explained and results on amounts of Se species in various commercial products are tabulated. In all cases described, selenomethionine is the largest single species, accounting for 54–74 % of total Se. Se-yeast is capable of increasing the activity of the selenoenzymes and its bioavailability has been found to be higher than that of inorganic Se sources in all but one study. Intervention studies with Se-yeast have shown the benefit of this form in cancer prevention, on the immune response and on HIV infection. Of about one dozen supplementation studies, none has shown evidence of toxicity even up to an intake level of 800 μg Se/d over a period of years. It is concluded that Se-yeast from reputable manufacturers is adequately characterised, of reproducible quality, and that there is no evidence of toxicity even at levels far above the EC tolerable upper intake level of 300 μg/d.

(Received May 11 2004)

(Revised June 29 2004)

(Accepted June 29 2004)

Correspondence:

c1 *Corresponding author: Dr M. P. Rayman, fax +44 1483 300374, email M.Rayman@surrey.ac.uk

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