Although trace minerals are necessary constituents of enzymes, dietary requirements of these nutrients for the elderly are unknown. This study measured selenium balance in six dependent elderly men before and after five weeks daily administration of 200 micrograms organically-bound selenium; dietary selenium intake averaged 62.1 +/- 7 micrograms/day during both study periods. Selenium status was assessed not only chemically but also biologically as red cell and platelet glutathione peroxidase activities. Plasma selenium averaged 8.8 +/- 0.8 micrograms% (normal: 10 +/- 2 micrograms %) when intake derived from dietary sources alone and increased during medicinal supplementation to an average of 12.8 +/- 1.9 micrograms %. The rise in plasma selenium was not associated with an increase in red cell or platelet glutathione peroxidase activity. The effect of selenium supplementation on in vivo platelet aggregability was studied by measuring plasma levels of beta-thromboglobulin and platelet factor 4, two proteins secreted concomitant with aggregation. beta-thromboglobulin diminished 7.5 +/- 11.0 ng/ml and platelet factor 7.6 +/- 11.0 ng/ml during selenium supplementation despite no change in platelet glutathione peroxidase activity. These data support the concept that selenium nutritional status should be assessed not only by blood selenium content but also by selenium-dependent enzyme activity or selenium-dependent biologic effect.
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