Selenium is an essential trace mineral required for the correct functions of cells. In this role selenium forms part of a group of proteins called selenoproteins. One important selenoprotein is glutathione peroxidase, a selenoprotein required as an antioxidant in cells. Selenium deficiencies tend therefore to lead to diseases that are associated with poor antioxidant status. New Zealand has selenium deficient soils and as a result the population is at high risk of a selenium deficiency. For example, one study observed that 56 % of mothers with newborn babies had selenium intakes below the estimated average requirement of 65 μg per day. Further at 3 and 6 months 85 and 93 % of infants had selenium intakes that were below the estimated adequate intake of 12 μg per day. The authors concluded that the selenium intake of some of the mothers was not sufficient. The poor selenium status of the mothers may have put their breastfed infants at risk of a selenium deficiency as the selenium would be transferred to the infants through breast milk.
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