Distribution of toenail selenium levels in young adult Caucasians and African Americans in the United States: The CARDIA Trace Element Study

Pengcheng Xun, Deborah Bujnowski, Kiang Liu, J. Steve Morris, Zhongqin Guo, Ka He*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Data on selenium (Se) levels in American young adults, especially in African Americans, are lacking. Objective: This study presented toenail Se distributions in American young adults of both genders, including both Caucasians and African Americans; and explored potential predictors of toenail Se levels. Data and methods: Data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study among 4252 American young adults, aged 20-32 in 1987 was used to examine toenail Se levels by instrumental neutron-activation analysis. The distribution of Se levels was described and multivariable linear regression was used to examine potential modifiers of toenail Se concentration within ethnicity-gender subgroups. Results: The geometric mean of toenail Se in this cohort was 0.844 γg/g (95% CI, 0.840-0.849 γg/g) and the median was 0.837 γg/g (95% CI, 0.833-0.844 γg/g). Median levels from lowest to highest quintile were 0.691, 0.774, 0.838, 0.913 and 1.037 γg/g. Se levels varied geographically, and were generally in accordance with its concentrations in local soil. Males, African Americans, current smokers, heavy drinkers and less educated participants were more likely to have low Se levels. Conclusion: This study suggests that toenail Se levels vary geographically depending on soil Se concentrations. In addition to gender, ethnicity and education level, smoking status and alcohol consumption are two important indicators of Se status since they are modifiable lifestyle factors. Findings from this study might aid public health professionals in identifying people at relatively high or low Se levels, so that chronic disease prevention efforts can be directed toward these subgroups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-519
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2011


  • American young adults
  • Distribution
  • Ethnicity
  • Selenium
  • Toenail

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Biochemistry


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