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October 2021

Ann Acad Med Singapore. 1998 Jul; 27(4): 520-3.

Serum selenium in the general population of Singapore, 1993 to 1995.

Hughes K, Chua LH, Ong CN.

Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore.

Selenium is a trace element which plays a vital role in many metabolic functions and in particular is an integral part of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase. It may be involved in the prevention of a number of diseases including cardiovascular diseases and cancer, which are the main causes of death in Singapore with ethnic differences. The National University of Singapore Heart Study measured cardiovascular risk factors, including serum selenium, in a random of the general population aged 30 to 69 years from 1993 to 1995. Mean serum selenium was higher in Chinese (males 126 and females 119 micrograms/L) and Malays (males 122 and females 122 micrograms/L) than Indians (males 117 and females 115 micrograms/L). These levels (with an estimated mean of 122 micrograms/L in Singapore) are lower than those in the USA but higher than those in Western Europe. The proportions with serum selenium < 80 micrograms/L (classified as low values) were low, though highest in Indians (males 1.2% and females 1.2%), then Chinese (males 0.6% and females 1.3%) and then Malays (males 0.0% and females 0.0%), but the differences were not statistically significant. The overall estimate for the prevalence of low selenium in Singapore was 0.8%. It is concluded that levels of serum selenium in Singapore are satisfactory and no action with regard to dietary supplementation is needed. Serum selenium levels are slightly lower in Indians than in Chinese and Malays (probably due to a more vegetarian diet) and this may make a small contribution to Indians' higher rates of coronary heart disease compared to Chinese and Malays.

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