Male smokers needed for study to investigate new method of improving selenium intake

Around 200 men – including men who smoke – are being sought by researchers in Adelaide, South Australia to take part in a new study aimed at preventing cancer and other health problems.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Adelaide and CSIRO, hopes to determine if wheat containing an essential micronutrient, called selenium, will help men with low selenium levels, potentially improving their health.

Selenium has antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-heart disease properties. It is also involved with iodine in the regulation of thyroid hormones. Studies suggest that supplements of selenium are of more benefit to men than women, especially among smokers.

“Selenium is an important part of our micronutrient intake, but unfortunately most people throughout the world have low selenium intakes. This is particularly evident in smokers,” says Dr Graham Lyons, Research Associate in Plant & Pest Science at the University of Adelaide and one of the leaders of the study.

Dr Lyons, who has qualifications in Agricultural Science and Public Health, says researchers at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus have developed a fertilisation method that can increase grain selenium concentration a hundred-fold.

“Wheat converts the inorganic selenium to a form which is particularly suitable to humans,” he says.

"High-selenium biofortified wheat could help to improve health and prevent disease in hundreds of millions of people worldwide. That’s why this clinical trial is the next important step in the process.

“For this study we are currently recruiting men aged 40-65 years, who preferably smoke – the heavier the better! Non-smokers are also welcome.

"Men who are considered at high-risk of prostate cancer are also wanted, as selenium’s strongest preventive effect in previous trials has been shown for prostate cancer.”

The trial will begin in February 2005 and run for 6 months. Participants will be asked to consume several biscuits per day (made either from high-selenium wheat or low-selenium control wheat) and provide blood on four separate occasions.

The trial will be conducted at the CSIRO’s Clinical Research Unit.

Collaborators and funders of the project include: the National Centre of Excellence for Functional Foods, the University of Adelaide HarvestPlus Biofortification Unit, CSIRO Health Sciences & Nutrition, Laucke Flour Mills, and the South Australian Grain Industry Trust Fund.

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