1. The daily intake of selenium by three subjects was supplemented with 100 μg Se as selenomethionine (Semet-Se) or sodium selenite (selenite-Se)/d for 10–11 weeks, or with 65 μg Se as in mackerel (Scomber japonicus) (fish-Se)/d for 4 weeks.
2. Urinary and faecal excretion of Se was measured and also Se concentration in whole blood, plasma and erythrocytes. Measurements on blood were made at intervals after supplementation had ceased.
3. Selenite-Se was not as well absorbed (0.46 of the intake) during the first 4 weeks as Semet-Se (0.75 of the intake) and fish Se (0.66 of the intake).
4. Blood Se increased steadily with Semet-Se, from 0.08 to 0.18 μg Se/ml, but more slowly with selenite-Se, reaching a plateau in 7–8 weeks at 0.11 μg Se/ml. Plasma Se increased more rapidly with Semet-Se than with selenite-Se, so that initially with Semet-Se plasma Se was greater than erythrocyte Se.
5. Daily urinary excretion increased with all forms of supplement, with initially a greater proportion of absorbed selenite-Se being excreted than Semet-Se or fish-Se. A close relationship was found between plasma Se and 24 h urinary excretion. The findings suggested that there was a rapid initial excretion of presumably unbound Se then a slower excretion of residual unbound, loosely bound or bound Se.
6. Total retentions of 3.5 mg selenite-Se and 4.5 mg Semet-Se were large when compared with an estimate of body content of 6 mg Se, derived in another paper (Stewart, Griffiths, Thomson & Robinson, 1978). Retentions of Semet-Se and fish-Se appeared to be reflected in blood Se, whereas for selenite-Se, blood Se reflected retention for only a short period after which Se appeared to be retained without altering the blood Se. This suggested that Semet-Se and selenite-Se were metabolized differently.
7. A double blind-dosing trial with 100 μg Semet-Se was carried out for 12 weeks on twenty-four patients with muscular complaints in Tapanui, a low-Se-soil area. Blood Se increased in the experimental group (from 0.067 to 0.143 μg Se/ml); clinical findings were not conclusive and will be presented elsewhere.
8. Blood Se was measured in New Zealand residents before travelling to Europe or to North America. On return their blood Se was increased, and depending upon the period of time spent outside New Zealand some values reached concentrations found in visitors and new settlers to New Zealand.
9. The results from these studies and the earlier studies of single and multiple dosing have been used to look at the various criteria in use for assessing Se status of subjects. It is suggested that plasma Se be used in preference to 24 h urinary excretion, and in addition to whole blood Se and glutathione peroxidase (EC 220.127.116.11) activity.