This article provides an update on the role of the essential trace element selenium and its interaction with the other trace elements iodine and iron that together contribute to adequate thyroid hormone status. Synthesis, secretion, metabolism and action of thyroid hormone in target tissues depend on a balanced nutritional availability or supplementation of these elements. Selenium status is altered in benign and malignant thyroid diseases and various selenium compounds have been used to prevent or treat widespread diseases such as goiter, autoimmune thyroid disease or thyroid cancer.
Several studies, most with still too low numbers of cases, indicate that selenium administration in both autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto thyroiditis) and mild Graves' disease improves clinical scores and well-being of patients and reduces thyroperoxidase antibody titers. However, published results are still conflicting depending on basal selenium status, dose, time and form of selenium used for intervention. Evidence for sex-specific selenium action, lack of beneficial effects in pregnancy and contribution of genetic polymorphisms (selenoprotein S) has been presented.
Adequate nutritional supply of selenium that saturates expression of circulating selenoprotein P, together with optimal iodine and iron intake, is required for a healthy and functional thyroid during development, adolescence, adulthood and aging.