Annual Report FY 2004 - Research at Cornell

15. Selenium and Type 2 Diabetes

Xingen Lei, Animal Science, and his research colleagues discovered that an antioxidant enzyme containing selenium could promote type 2 diabetes. Selenium is a common dietary supplement taken to rid the body of free radicals, therefore helping to decrease the risks of cancer and heart disease. These benefits of selenium are related to its role in the production of glutathione peroxidase (GP), an antioxidant enzyme. The research of Lei’s group suggests that the body needs some free radicals to regulate insulin sensitivity. The researchers found that mice with elevated levels of the antioxidant enzyme developed hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinema, and more plasma leptin. They also became heavier and fatter than the control group of mice. These conditions are precursors to type 2 diabetes. Although selenium is known to detoxify the body, too much of it can be harmful. Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing and most costly disorders worldwide.

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