The understanding of the essential role of selenium (Se) in human health has increased substantially in recent decades. Micronutrient deficiencies are very common in the general population and may be even more common in patients with different pathologies due to genetic or environmental causes and prescription drug use.
Selenium is used by people in the prevention and/or treatment of different disorders including cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, stroke, atherosclerosis, cancer susceptibility and treatment, HIV, AIDS, neuronal diseases such as Alzheimer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, pancreatitis, depression, and diabetes amongst others. Several mechanisms have been suggested to mediate the biological effects of Se and these include antioxidant defence systems, synthesis and stability of metabolites that act as intermediates implicated in diverse selenoproteins expression pathways oxidative metabolism, immune system modulation, DNA intercalators, kinase regulation, enzymatic cofactor, and gene expression.
A number of clinical trials in recent years have provided convincing evidence of the central role of this element, either alone or in combination with other micronutrients or antioxidants, in the prevention and treatment of multiple diseases. Based on these studies this review focuses on the advances made so far in the study of mechanisms and applications of selenium compounds that could be suitable for chronic diseases.