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Low Levels of Selenium and Vitamin E Linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

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By Deborah Cooper • • July 20, 2000

Levels of selenium and vitamin E may represent important factors in a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to a recent study. This confirms previous research that suggested that antioxidant nutrients may have protective benefits against the disease.

Specifically low serum levels of selenium may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid factor-negative rheumatoid arthritis, whereas low levels of vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopherols may increase the overall risk of developing RA.

Selenium is a trace mineral the body requires to activate the antioxidant enzyme glutathione and is credited for preventing a wide variety of diseases. It may even enhance the responsiveness of arthritis treatment. Alpha-tocopherols are a potent form of the nutrient vitamin E.

The study, led by Dr. Paul Knekt of the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki, followed 18,709 Finnish men and women without arthritis or a history of the disease between 1973 and 1978. By late 1989, 122 people had developed rheumatoid arthritis, 34 of whom were rheumatoid factor-negative. Rheumatoid factor is the antibody usually present in rheumatoid arthritis.

The results published in the July issue of Epidemiology demonstrated that low selenium status increased the risk for developing rheumatoid factor-negative RA and low alpha-tocopherol levels may raise the risk factor for RA independently of an individual’s rheumatoid factor status.

This research suggests the possibility that supplementation with selenium and Vitamin E-containing alpha-tocopherol may play a preventative role in rheumatoid arthritis.

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