Selenium and Depression: The Alcohol Connection

Selenium is a trace mineral required for human health. The selenium content of the blood varies around the world depending on the selenium content of the soil. Evidence suggests that low intakes of selenium are a cause of mood disorders, possibly because a low selenium intake decreases antioxidant defences in cells. Chronic alcohol consumption is known to cause depletion in blood levels of selenium and also to cause depression. Some researchers have therefore speculated that the depletion of selenium may be cause of the depression associated with chronic drinking. Interestingly, when chronic drinkers abstain from alcohol consumption, their selenium levels return to normal and their depression abates. The low levels of selenium seen in individuals who habitually drink alcohol may be due to low dietary intakes, or may be due to poor absorption, or a combination of both. Supplementation with selenium is an obvious first step to restore blood selenium levels and protect mental health if blood levels are low.

selenium anxiety depression mood

Researchers have investigated the effects of a high and low selenium diet in healthy subjects. Following a high selenium diet for 15 weeks resulted in significantly more clear headed thinking and less confusion, as well as significantly less depression and anxiety than those on the low selenium diet.

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Sher, L. 2008. Depression and suicidal behavior in alcohol abusing adolescents: possible role of selenium deficiency. Minerva Pediatrica. 60(2): 201-209
Finley J. W. and Penland J. G. 1998. Adequacy or deprivation of dietary selenium in healthy men: clinical and psychological findings. The Journal of Trace Elements in Experimental Medicine. 11: 11-27

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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