Elderly people in care homes are more likely to be deficient in the anti-inflammatory mineral selenium, according to a report in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging.
Researchers in Taiwan studied 336 men and women between the ages of 65 and 101 years who were residents of long-term health facilitie.
Blood samples were analysed for the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), selenium and other factors.
MR W Y Lin, who led the research team said: “The ageing process has been demonstrated to be associated with oxidative damage and increased production of inflammatory cytokines.
“The inappropriate presentation of inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin (IL)-1, and IL-6, characterizes a chronic inflammatory state in the elderly. Meanwhile, it has been reported that the increase in serum inflammatory cytokines, especially IL-6, is related to the development of sarcopenia, functional disability, frailty, and increased morbidity and mortality.”
Selenium deficiency, defined as having a serum selenium level of less than 80 micrograms per liter (mcg/L), was detected in 35.6 of the men and 43.2 percent of the women participating in the study. An increased risk of deficiency was associated with rising levels of IL-6. Among those whose IL-6 levels were among the top 25 percent of participants, the risk of deficiency was more than double that of subjects whose IL-6 levels were among the lowest quarter.
The authors attribute the finding to selenium’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and note that decreases in serum selenium as well as increases in interleukin-6 have been linked with chronic diseases involving inflammation, including cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. They remark that chronic inflammatory diseases could be a consequence rather than a cause of the relationship between selenium and IL-6; however, the design of the study prohibited exploration of causality. “Future studies should aim to further clarify the linkage between selenium and IL-6, and possible benefits and disadvantages of intervention,” they conclude.