Diet and malnutrition have a significant impact on the human heart. The development and progression of heart failure are closely related to an imbalance of minerals and iron, iodine, and zinc levels in the patient’s blood, for example. It has previously been demonstrated that up to 50% of patients with heart failure suffer from some form of malnutrition, such as a deficiency of micronutrients like iron, iodine, and zinc.
Selenium’s role in the human body
Selenium is a micronutrient comparable to iron or iodine and is indispensable as a building block for selenoproteins. These proteins play an important role by counteracting harmful particles that attack cells, but they also play a role in regulating the thyroid hormone, inflammation, or cancer. Selenium is found in many foods, including animal (fish and meat) and vegetable products and nuts. The body does not produce it naturally. A blood test can detect any deficiency. It is virtually impossible to get too much selenium through your diet.
Sufficient selenium reduces the risk of heart failure and death
Bömer’s research shows that mainly non-smokers with an above-average level of selenium in their blood have a lower risk of developing heart failure. This group with optimal selenium blood levels comprises about 15% of the total population. This group was also found to have a lower risk of death. Those with low levels of selenium were found to more often be women and frequently exhibited characteristics of metabolic syndrome: a higher BMI, higher inflammatory markers, more frequent anaemia, and an iron deficiency. They were also found to smoke more often.
The Dutch have low levels of selenium in their blood
Nils Bömer’s research also shows that Dutch people have a relatively low selenium concentration in their blood. This is partly due to the relatively low amount of selenium in the soil in Europe compared to in America, for example. As a result, food grown in Europe contains less selenium than food from North or South America. Bömer conducted his study using data from the extensive LifeLines population study as a follow-up to the PREVEND study (Prevention of Renal and Vascular End-stage Disease).
Selenium concentration and heart failure
Doctors assume that blood selenium concentration should be at least 70 µg per litre. Previous research by Bömer already showed that about 25% of patients with heart failure have less than this, and that this deficiency was associated with poorer quality of life, poor exercise tolerance, and a poorer prognosis. Selenium deficiency is prevalent in older patients and occurs more frequently in women with more severe signs and symptoms of heart failure. In addition, the adverse effects of low selenium levels already appeared to occur in sub-optimal concentrations of selenium (<100 µg/l), which affects about 70% of heart failure patients in Europe.
Importance of a good diet
According to Bömer, the results of his study indicate the significant importance of getting the right amount of selenium through a proper diet. He also advocates conducting well-designed clinical studies to determine whether optimizing selenium levels in the blood could be a potential treatment option for people with heart failure; in particular, for patients with low selenium levels.
Link to the publication: http://doi.org/10.1002/ejhf.2405