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OBJECTIVE: Because the trace element selenium behaves as an antioxidant and peroxynitrite scavenger when incorporated into selenoproteins, our objective was to determine whether low selenium status was associated with a greater risk of occurrence of preeclampsia. STUDY DESIGN: Fifty-three preeclamptic patients and 53 matched pregnant controls at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, gave clippings of their toenails (laid down from 3-12 months previously) for selenium determination by neutron activation analysis. Clinical characteristics of the women and their infants were recorded. Statistical analysis was by Wilcoxon signed rank test and odds ratios were calculated by the ratio of discordant pairs. RESULTS: Median toenail selenium concentrations in the preeclamptic subjects were significantly lower than in their matched controls (P=.001). Being in the bottom tertile of toenail selenium was associated with a 4.4-fold (95% CI 1.6-14.9) greater incidence of the condition. Within the preeclamptic group, lower selenium status was significantly associated (P=.029) with more severe expression of disease, as measured by delivery before 32 weeks. CONCLUSION: In the light of the reduction in selenium status in a number of European countries in recent years, this study raises the question of whether a small increase in selenium intake might help prevent preeclampsia in susceptible women.


Journal article


Am J Obstet Gynecol

Publication Date





1343 - 1349


Adult, Antioxidants, Case-Control Studies, Female, Great Britain, Humans, Incidence, Nails, Osmolar Concentration, Pre-Eclampsia, Pregnancy, Risk Factors, Selenium, Severity of Illness Index