Vinceti M, Bonvicini F, Rothman KJ, Vescovi L, Wang FY. The relation between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and inorganic selenium in drinking water: a population-based case-control study. Environ Health. 2010 Dec 1;9(Art. No. 77).

BACKGROUND:  A community in northern Italy was previously reported to have an excess incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis among residents exposed to high levels of inorganic selenium in their drinking water.

METHODS:  To assess the extent to which such association persisted in the decade following its initial observation, we conducted a population-based case-control study encompassing forty-one newly-diagnosed cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and eighty-two age- and sex-matched controls. We measured long-term intake of inorganic selenium along with other potentially neurotoxic trace elements.

  We found that consumption of drinking water containing ≥ 1 μg/l of inorganic selenium was associated with a relative risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis of 5.4 (95% confidence interval 1.1-26) after adjustment for confounding factors. Greater amounts of cumulative inorganic selenium intake were associated with progressively increasing effects, with a relative risk of 2.1 (95% confidence interval 0.5-9.1) for intermediate levels of cumulative intake and 6.4 (95% confidence interval 1.3-31) for high intake.

CONCLUSION:  Based on these results, coupled with other epidemiologic data and with findings from animal studies that show specific toxicity of the trace element on motor neurons, we hypothesize that dietary intake of inorganic selenium through drinking water increases the risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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