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CRN criticizes CSPI’s allegations over increased health risks associated with selenium intake


WASHINGTON As part of its efforts to address misconception and misdirection around the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements, the Council for Responsible Nutrition on Tuesday issued a release criticizing the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s recent allegations that there are increased health risks associated with selenium intake.

“It is disappointing to read the kind of fear-mongering that is being attributed to the Center for Science in the Public Interest in connection with its campaign to clarify the permissible health claims that can be made for selenium and certain kinds of cancer,” stated Steve Mister, president and CEO, CRN. “Recently CSPI has been quoted as issuing statements like, ‘[selenium products] are dangerous to the health of men suffering from prostate cancer,’ ‘ may increase the risk of diabetes and hypertension,’ and that, ‘the [selenium] products pose a health risk to consumers because results from studies associate selenium intake with increased risk of developing diabetes and with increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.’”

However, the authors of that study associating selenium with increased diabetes risk — the SELECT trial — “have themselves been very careful to state that any increased risk of diabetes that might have been associated with the SELECT trial was not statistically significant and may have been due to chance,” Mister said. “It is more than a little disingenuous to keep raising the specter of increased chance of diabetes from non-statistically significant data from a single study that may be due to chance.”

Likewise, CSPI has speculated about the dangers to men suffering from prostate cancer who supplement with selenium. CRN is not aware of any hard data that even remotely suggests that men with prostate cancer are turning to selenium as a cure or treatment, the association stated. Nor is there data that these men are forgoing their chemo-treatments or cancer drugs in favor of selenium.

The published study that CSPI cites in support of the allegations that selenium is associated with aggressive prostate cancer — Journal of Clinical Oncology, June 2009 — does not support that conclusion, Mister said.

“The real issue that is under scrutiny is whether the claim that selenium can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer is adequately supported by the evidence,” Mister added. “CRN and CSPI can certainly disagree about that and whether particular claims appropriately communicate to consumers their risk of developing cancer; it would be entirely appropriate for CSPI to urge FDA to deny the claim while CRN argues that the data is sufficient to support such a claim. But it’s quite disturbing to see CSPI resorting to this kind of hyperbole to attract headlines and divert attention from the real issues.”

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