TAKING daily selenium supplements appears to increase the level of the essential mineral in the blood and may suppress the progression of viral load in patients with HIV, new research has revealed.
The US study was based on a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of selenium supplements in 262 patients with HIV.
Participants were randomly assigned to treatment groups - 141 took a capsule containing 200 micrograms of high selenium yeast and 121 took a similar capsule containing inactive yeast and a filler material.
Of the 262 patients for whom treatment was initiated, 174 (91 in the selenium group and 83 in the placebo group) completed the nine month study assessment.
Findings show the two groups had similar selenium levels at the beginning of the study, but after nine months, the average change in blood selenium level was greater in the treatment group. Higher blood selenium levels predicted a decreased HIV viral load (number of copies of HIV virus in the blood) and an increased CD4 count.
'The exact mechanism by which selenium exerts its effect on HIV-1 viral replication is not known,' the authors wrote.
'One hypothesis holds that selenium's antioxidant properties may repair damage done to immune cells by oxygen, which is produced at higher levels in the bodies of patients with HIV. However, future research is needed to confirm this relationship.'
Archives of Internal Medicine (2007) 167:148-154