Effects of nationwide addition of selenium to fertilizers on foods, and animal and human health in Finland: From deficiency to optimal selenium status of the population

Georg Alfthan, Merja Eurola, Päivi Ekholm, Eija-Riitta Venälainen, Tarja Root, Katja Korkalainen, Helinä Hartikainen, Pirjo Salminen, Veli Hietaniemi, Pentti Aspila, Antti Aro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Despite different geological features the Nordic countries are generally selenium-poor areas. In each country various factors such as food importation and life-style determine the selenium (Se) intake. Due to an extremely low Se intake in the 1970s in Finland, 0.025 mg/day, an official decision was made in 1984 to supplement multinutrient fertilizers with Se in the chemical form of sodium selenate. Almost all fertilizers used in Finland since 1985 have contained Se. Currently all crop fertilizers contain 15 mg Se/kg. Finland is still the only country to take this country-wide measure.

In a national monitoring programme, sampling of cereals, basic foodstuffs, feeds, fertilizers, soils, and human tissues has been carried out annually since 1985 by four governmental research organizations. Sampling of foods has been done four times per year and human blood has been obtained annually from the same (n = 60) adults. The accuracy of analyses has been verified by annual interlaboratory quality control. During this programme the selenium concentration of spring cereals has increased on average 15-fold compared with the level before the Se fertilization. The mean increase in the Se concentration in beef, pork and milk was 6-, 2- and 3-fold. In terms of Se, organically grown foods of plant origin are generally comparable to products produced before the Se supplementation of fertilizers. Milk from organically fed cows is 50% lower in Se than the usual milk. The average dietary human intake increased from 0.04 mg Se/day/10 MJ in 1985 to a present plateau of 0.08 mg Se/day/10 MJ, which is well above the current nutrition recommendations. Foods of animal origin contribute over 70% of the total daily Se intake. The mean human plasma Se concentration increased from 0.89 μmol/L to a general level of 1.40 μmol/L that can be considered to be an optimal status. The absence of Se deficiency diseases and a reference population have made conclusions on the impact on human health difficult. However, the rates of cardiovascular diseases and cancers have remained similar during the pre- and post-supplementation indicating medical and life-style factors to be much stronger determinants than Se. The nationwide supplementation of fertilizers with sodium selenate is shown to be effective and safe in increasing the Se intake of the whole population. Also, the health of animals has improved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology
Volume31
Pages (from-to)142-147
Number of pages6
ISSN0946-672X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

Fields of Science

  • 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
  • 1172 Environmental sciences
  • 4111 Agronomy
  • 416 Food Science

Cite this

Alfthan, Georg ; Eurola, Merja ; Ekholm, Päivi ; Venälainen, Eija-Riitta ; Root, Tarja ; Korkalainen, Katja ; Hartikainen, Helinä ; Salminen, Pirjo ; Hietaniemi, Veli ; Aspila, Pentti ; Aro, Antti. / Effects of nationwide addition of selenium to fertilizers on foods, and animal and human health in Finland: From deficiency to optimal selenium status of the population. In: Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. 2015 ; Vol. 31. pp. 142-147.
@article{59a8924e0f47402e96aad2de0cb96073,
title = "Effects of nationwide addition of selenium to fertilizers on foods, and animal and human health in Finland: From deficiency to optimal selenium status of the population",
abstract = "Despite different geological features the Nordic countries are generally selenium-poor areas. In each country various factors such as food importation and life-style determine the selenium (Se) intake. Due to an extremely low Se intake in the 1970s in Finland, 0.025 mg/day, an official decision was made in 1984 to supplement multinutrient fertilizers with Se in the chemical form of sodium selenate. Almost all fertilizers used in Finland since 1985 have contained Se. Currently all crop fertilizers contain 15 mg Se/kg. Finland is still the only country to take this country-wide measure.In a national monitoring programme, sampling of cereals, basic foodstuffs, feeds, fertilizers, soils, and human tissues has been carried out annually since 1985 by four governmental research organizations. Sampling of foods has been done four times per year and human blood has been obtained annually from the same (n = 60) adults. The accuracy of analyses has been verified by annual interlaboratory quality control. During this programme the selenium concentration of spring cereals has increased on average 15-fold compared with the level before the Se fertilization. The mean increase in the Se concentration in beef, pork and milk was 6-, 2- and 3-fold. In terms of Se, organically grown foods of plant origin are generally comparable to products produced before the Se supplementation of fertilizers. Milk from organically fed cows is 50{\%} lower in Se than the usual milk. The average dietary human intake increased from 0.04 mg Se/day/10 MJ in 1985 to a present plateau of 0.08 mg Se/day/10 MJ, which is well above the current nutrition recommendations. Foods of animal origin contribute over 70{\%} of the total daily Se intake. The mean human plasma Se concentration increased from 0.89 μmol/L to a general level of 1.40 μmol/L that can be considered to be an optimal status. The absence of Se deficiency diseases and a reference population have made conclusions on the impact on human health difficult. However, the rates of cardiovascular diseases and cancers have remained similar during the pre- and post-supplementation indicating medical and life-style factors to be much stronger determinants than Se. The nationwide supplementation of fertilizers with sodium selenate is shown to be effective and safe in increasing the Se intake of the whole population. Also, the health of animals has improved.",
keywords = "3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health, 1172 Environmental sciences, 4111 Agronomy, 416 Food Science",
author = "Georg Alfthan and Merja Eurola and P{\"a}ivi Ekholm and Eija-Riitta Ven{\"a}lainen and Tarja Root and Katja Korkalainen and Helin{\"a} Hartikainen and Pirjo Salminen and Veli Hietaniemi and Pentti Aspila and Antti Aro",
year = "2015",
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Effects of nationwide addition of selenium to fertilizers on foods, and animal and human health in Finland: From deficiency to optimal selenium status of the population. / Alfthan, Georg; Eurola, Merja; Ekholm, Päivi; Venälainen, Eija-Riitta; Root, Tarja; Korkalainen, Katja; Hartikainen, Helinä; Salminen, Pirjo; Hietaniemi, Veli; Aspila, Pentti; Aro, Antti.

In: Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, Vol. 31, 2015, p. 142-147.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Effects of nationwide addition of selenium to fertilizers on foods, and animal and human health in Finland: From deficiency to optimal selenium status of the population

AU - Alfthan, Georg

AU - Eurola, Merja

AU - Ekholm, Päivi

AU - Venälainen, Eija-Riitta

AU - Root, Tarja

AU - Korkalainen, Katja

AU - Hartikainen, Helinä

AU - Salminen, Pirjo

AU - Hietaniemi, Veli

AU - Aspila, Pentti

AU - Aro, Antti

PY - 2015

Y1 - 2015

N2 - Despite different geological features the Nordic countries are generally selenium-poor areas. In each country various factors such as food importation and life-style determine the selenium (Se) intake. Due to an extremely low Se intake in the 1970s in Finland, 0.025 mg/day, an official decision was made in 1984 to supplement multinutrient fertilizers with Se in the chemical form of sodium selenate. Almost all fertilizers used in Finland since 1985 have contained Se. Currently all crop fertilizers contain 15 mg Se/kg. Finland is still the only country to take this country-wide measure.In a national monitoring programme, sampling of cereals, basic foodstuffs, feeds, fertilizers, soils, and human tissues has been carried out annually since 1985 by four governmental research organizations. Sampling of foods has been done four times per year and human blood has been obtained annually from the same (n = 60) adults. The accuracy of analyses has been verified by annual interlaboratory quality control. During this programme the selenium concentration of spring cereals has increased on average 15-fold compared with the level before the Se fertilization. The mean increase in the Se concentration in beef, pork and milk was 6-, 2- and 3-fold. In terms of Se, organically grown foods of plant origin are generally comparable to products produced before the Se supplementation of fertilizers. Milk from organically fed cows is 50% lower in Se than the usual milk. The average dietary human intake increased from 0.04 mg Se/day/10 MJ in 1985 to a present plateau of 0.08 mg Se/day/10 MJ, which is well above the current nutrition recommendations. Foods of animal origin contribute over 70% of the total daily Se intake. The mean human plasma Se concentration increased from 0.89 μmol/L to a general level of 1.40 μmol/L that can be considered to be an optimal status. The absence of Se deficiency diseases and a reference population have made conclusions on the impact on human health difficult. However, the rates of cardiovascular diseases and cancers have remained similar during the pre- and post-supplementation indicating medical and life-style factors to be much stronger determinants than Se. The nationwide supplementation of fertilizers with sodium selenate is shown to be effective and safe in increasing the Se intake of the whole population. Also, the health of animals has improved.

AB - Despite different geological features the Nordic countries are generally selenium-poor areas. In each country various factors such as food importation and life-style determine the selenium (Se) intake. Due to an extremely low Se intake in the 1970s in Finland, 0.025 mg/day, an official decision was made in 1984 to supplement multinutrient fertilizers with Se in the chemical form of sodium selenate. Almost all fertilizers used in Finland since 1985 have contained Se. Currently all crop fertilizers contain 15 mg Se/kg. Finland is still the only country to take this country-wide measure.In a national monitoring programme, sampling of cereals, basic foodstuffs, feeds, fertilizers, soils, and human tissues has been carried out annually since 1985 by four governmental research organizations. Sampling of foods has been done four times per year and human blood has been obtained annually from the same (n = 60) adults. The accuracy of analyses has been verified by annual interlaboratory quality control. During this programme the selenium concentration of spring cereals has increased on average 15-fold compared with the level before the Se fertilization. The mean increase in the Se concentration in beef, pork and milk was 6-, 2- and 3-fold. In terms of Se, organically grown foods of plant origin are generally comparable to products produced before the Se supplementation of fertilizers. Milk from organically fed cows is 50% lower in Se than the usual milk. The average dietary human intake increased from 0.04 mg Se/day/10 MJ in 1985 to a present plateau of 0.08 mg Se/day/10 MJ, which is well above the current nutrition recommendations. Foods of animal origin contribute over 70% of the total daily Se intake. The mean human plasma Se concentration increased from 0.89 μmol/L to a general level of 1.40 μmol/L that can be considered to be an optimal status. The absence of Se deficiency diseases and a reference population have made conclusions on the impact on human health difficult. However, the rates of cardiovascular diseases and cancers have remained similar during the pre- and post-supplementation indicating medical and life-style factors to be much stronger determinants than Se. The nationwide supplementation of fertilizers with sodium selenate is shown to be effective and safe in increasing the Se intake of the whole population. Also, the health of animals has improved.

KW - 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health

KW - 1172 Environmental sciences

KW - 4111 Agronomy

KW - 416 Food Science

U2 - 10.1016/j.jtemb.2014.04.009

DO - 10.1016/j.jtemb.2014.04.009

M3 - Review Article

VL - 31

SP - 142

EP - 147

JO - Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology

JF - Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology

SN - 0946-672X

ER -