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Selenium is considered a protective agent against free radicals through the maintenance of better enzyme activity. The few studies examining the relationship between selenium and depression have yielded inconsistent results and none of these studies considered the role of cognitive function in this context.
A cross-sectional evaluation of 1737 rural Chinese age 65 and over from two provinces in China was conducted. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Cognitive function was assessed using various cognitive instruments. Selenium measures were obtained from nail samples. Other information collected included demographic characteristics and medical history. Analysis of covariance models were used to identify factors associated with GDS score.
Higher selenium levels were associated with lower GDS scores adjusting for demographic and medical conditions (p=0.0321). However, the association between selenium and depressive symptoms was no longer significant when cognitive function score was adjusted in the model (p=0.2143).
Higher selenium level was associated with lower depressive symptoms without adjusting for cognition in this cohort. However, after cognition was adjusted in the model the association between selenium and depressive symptoms was no longer significant, suggesting that selenium’s association with depressive symptoms may be primarily through its association with cognitive function.