Absorption, Distribution and Excretion of Selenium from Beef and Rice in Healthy North American Men

Wayne Chris Hawkes, Fulya Zeynep Alkan, Lynn Oehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Previous metabolic studies of selenium used pure selenium compounds with pharmacologic activities unrelated to selenium nutrition. Healthy men were fed foods naturally high or low in selenium while confined to a metabolic research unit. Selenium intake was 47 μg/d (595 nmol/d) for 21 d while energy intakes and body weights were stabilized and selenium excretion and intake came into metabolic balance. On d 22, selenium intake was changed to either 14 μg/d (177 nmol/d, low selenium) or 297 μg/d (3.8 μmol, high selenium) for the remaining 99 d. The absorption, distribution and excretion of selenium in food were similar to selenomethionine, and distinctly different from sodium selenite. Daily urinary selenium excretion and selenium concentrations in plasma and RBC showed the largest responses to selenium intake relative to interindividual variation. Urinary selenium and plasma selenium responded most rapidly to changes in selenium intake, whereas RBC reflected longer-term selenium intake. Given the difficulty of 24-h urine collections outside a metabolic research unit, RBC and plasma selenium seem to be the most useful indicators of selenium intake. During the intervention period, the high selenium group retained 15 mg (190 μmol) of selenium, with ∼5 mg (63 μmol) going into skeletal muscle. The low selenium group lost only 0.9 mg (11 μmol) of whole-body selenium but lost 3.3 mg (42 μmol) from muscle, indicating that selenium was redistributed from muscle to tissues that have a higher metabolic priority for selenium such as testes. Fecal excretion decreased by half, representing an important but previously underappreciated adaptation to selenium restriction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3434-3442
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003


  • Food selenium
  • Selenium absorption
  • Selenium balance
  • Selenium excretion
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Absorption, Distribution and Excretion of Selenium from Beef and Rice in Healthy North American Men'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this