Cold Spring, NY—Selenium may protect against obesity and provide metabolic benefits, according to a study performed in mice, published in eLife.
A press release on the study states that one method of increasing healthy lifespan in organisms including non-human mammals is to restrict dietary intake of an amino acid called methionine. These effects may hold true in humans, as well, the press release suggests. However, restricting methionine requires adherence to a strict diet such as veganism, which may not be feasible for many.
For the current study, a research team from the Orentreich Foundation for the Advancement of Science (OFAS), based in New York, aimed to find ways to replicate the effects of methionine restriction without requiring a restricted diet. The goal: To find a way to decrease the amount of the energy-regulating hormone IGF-1, which is how methionine affects the body.
Mice were fed one of three high-fat diets: a control diet containing typical amounts of methionine; a methionine-restricted diet; and the control diet, along with a source of selenium. For both male and female mice of any age, selenium supplementation completely protected against the dramatic weight gain and fat accumulation seen in mice fed the control diet. Supplementation with selenium had the same effects, to the same extent as restricting methionine.
The researchers also took blood samples, and tested for four metabolic markers. They found reduced levels of IGF-1, as well as reduced levels of the hormone leptin, which controls food intake and energy expenditure.
The researchers conclude: “We propose that this intervention downregulates IGF-1 signaling, thereby activating pathways that are both beneficial to healthspan and shared with MR. In the short term, this results in a total protection against diet-induced obesity. However, we expect that, in the long term, this intervention will also produce an MR-like extension of overall survival, as well as an amelioration of age-related pathologies.” Worth noting: This hasn’t yet been tested in humans, so while this research is promising, it’s not yet actionable.