Seeking Cognitive Health

Nearly one in four Americans are closing in on their senior years. This demographic group is predicted to more than double by 2060,and along with it brings a rise in diseases of aging. So it's no surprise to see growing interest in healthful aging, especially with respect to cognitive health and mental sharpness.

Maintaining cognitive health is considered a major factor in ensuring quality of life for older adults and preserving their independence.The concern is justified with nearly 6 million people now living with Alzheimer's Disease and more than 35 million worldwide noting some form of dementia.3

Main-Brain-HealthMore research, early diagnosis and prevention will be essential in diverting this public health crisis. The good news is that we now know that lifestyle factors and nutrition can play an important role in preserving brain health and mental performance with age. In addition to a balanced diet and maintaining activity, a growing body of compelling research reveals the importance of the trace mineral selenium to support cognitive health for the long term. 

Selenium works as a powerful antioxidant that is demonstrated to be a protective agent against free radicals through enhanced activity.4 Selenium is present in the amino acid selenocysteine, which contains at least 25 selenoproteins. These proteins play a critical role throughout the body impacting thyroid metabolism, reproduction, DNA synthesis and immunity. It is also well-documented that selenium is important for healthy brain function. According to a 2014 study, selenium and selenoprotein syntheses is critical for normal brain function and selenium deficiency correlates with lower cognitive function.5

Though selenium status is likely important at any age, it is especially critical for older people who may see their nutritional status decline as they age.6 More recent research also suggests that selenium deficiency may specifically contribute to this cognitive decline in aging people.While some degree of cognitive impairment is common in older people, it is also important to note that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may represent an intermediate state between expected decline in normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia, with some research demonstrating MCI may be linked to a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.8 As such, maintaining selenium levels may be important for avoiding this decline. This theory is bearing out as additional studies also connect lower selenium levels with the eventual development of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.9 One study looking specifically at correlations between selenium status and Alzheimer's noted that patients with the disease were observed to have low selenium intake and significantly lower selenium levels in blood plasma, erythrocytes and nails, which they said suggest an important relationship between Alzheimer's and selenium deficiency.10 As researchers gain better understanding of these associations, they also note selenium may have a protective effect for these diseases. A 2014 critical review concluded that selenium and selenoproteins have the potential to reduce the progression of these disorders by deterring oxidative stress and other detrimental factors.11

As evidence about selenium's importance grows, it is increasingly clear that selenium status should not be ignored in younger people and may even play a role in their mood and mental health. A 2014 study shed further light on this theory by demonstrating a link between selenium levels, depressive symptoms and daily mood in young adults, noting an optimal range of serum selenium between 82 and 85 µg/L was associated with a reduced risk of depressive symptoms.12 

Ultimately, evidence now suggests that selenium status is important throughout life. Given that it is often difficult to get enough selenium from food alone, supplementation may be warranted, particularly for aging consumers. 

For supplement developers looking to capitalize on this trend, it is also important to note that not all selenium forms in supplements are well utilized by the body. There is ample evidence that selenium-enriched yeast (Se yeast) is far superior to other forms with respect to bioavailability. One study that looked specifically at the effects of selenium on brain metastases in rats found that the different chemical forms had different impacts on the tumors, and that selenium in the form of Se-yeast decreased the growth of metastatic tumors.13 The researchers concluded that Se-yeast in particular may be a valuable agent in suppression of brain metastatic disease. Direct comparisons between SelenoExcell®, a proprietary high-selenium yeast and selenomethionine (SeMet), found that the SelenoExcell outperformed the SeMet in healthy men for both bioavailability and bioefficacy.14

To learn more about important opportunities to develop brain health products with selenium and SelenoExcell, we have gathered a broad range of resources to cover all business needs from current clinical research to formulation insights and strategies.

Inside our Brain Health Spotlight:

 These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


  1. Fact Sheet:  Aging in the United States.
  2. What is a healthy brain? New research explores perceptions of cognitive health among diverse older adults. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Aging.
  3. Prevalences of dementia and cognitive impairment in sub-Saharan Africa. A systematic review. Bullentin of the World Health Organization.
  4. Gao S, Jin Y, Hall KS et al. Selenium level and cognitive function in rural elderly Chinese. Am J Epidemiol 2007 Apr/ 15; 165(8):955-965.
  5. Pillai R, Uyehara-Lock JH, Bellinger FP.  Selenium and Selenoprotein function in Brain Disorders. International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 2014 April;66(4):229-239.
  6. Akbaraly T, HuningerFavier I, et al. Plasma selenium over time and cognitive decline in the elderly. Epidemiology 2007;18(1):52-58.
  7. Rita Cardosa B, et al. Selenium status in elderly. Relation to cognitive decline. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2014.
  8. Ibid. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2014.
  9. Ibid. International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 2014.
  10. Rita Cardosa B, Ong TP, et al. Nutritional status of selenium in Alzheimer's disease patients. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010;103:803-806.
  11. Ibid. International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 2014.
  12. Conner TS, Richardson AC, Miller JC. Optimal Serum Selenium Concentrations are Associated with Lower Depressive Symptoms and Negative Mood among Yound Adults. J Nutr. Nov. 5, 2014; doi:10.3945/jn. 114.198010.
  13. Wrobel JK, Seelbach MJ et al. Supplementation with selenium-enriched yeast attenuates brain metastatic growth. Nutrition and Cancer. 2013;65(4):563-570.
  14. Richie Jr JP, Das A, Calcagnotto AM et al.  Comparative effects of two different forms of selenium on oxidative stress biomarkers in healthy men: a randomized clinical trial. Cancer Prev Res 2014;7:796-804.


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