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Soil-type influences human selenium status and underlies widespread selenium deficiency risks in Malawi

Hurst, Rachel; Siyame, Edwin W.P.; Young, Scott D.; Chilimba, Allan D.C.; Joy, Edward J.M.; Black, Colin R.; Ander, E. Louise; Watts, Michael J.; Chilima, Benson; Gondwe, Jellita; Kang’ombe, Dalitso; Stein, Alexander J.; Fairweather-Tait, Susan J.; Gibson, Rosalind S.; Kalimbira, Alexander A.; Broadley, Martin R.


Rachel Hurst

Edwin W.P. Siyame

Scott D. Young

Allan D.C. Chilimba

Edward J.M. Joy

Colin R. Black

E. Louise Ander

Michael J. Watts

Benson Chilima

Jellita Gondwe

Dalitso Kang’ombe

Alexander J. Stein

Susan J. Fairweather-Tait

Rosalind S. Gibson

Alexander A. Kalimbira


Selenium (Se) is an essential human micronutrient with critical roles in immune functioning and antioxidant defence. Estimates of dietary Se intakes and status are scarce for Africa although crop surveys indicate deficiency is probably widespread in Malawi. Here we show that Se deficiency is likely endemic in Malawi based on the Se status of adults consuming food from contrasting soil types. These data are consistent with food balance sheets and composition tables revealing that >80% of the Malawi population is at risk of dietary Se inadequacy. Risk of dietary Se inadequacy is >60% in seven other countries in Southern Africa, and 22% across Africa as a whole. Given that most Malawi soils cannot supply sufficient Se to crops
for adequate human nutrition, the cost and benefits of interventions to alleviate Se deficiency should be
determined; for example, Se-enriched nitrogen fertilisers could be adopted as in Finland.


Hurst, R., Siyame, E. W., Young, S. D., Chilimba, A. D., Joy, E. J., Black, C. R., …Broadley, M. R. (2013). Soil-type influences human selenium status and underlies widespread selenium deficiency risks in Malawi. Scientific Reports, 3(1425), doi:10.1038/srep01425

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 21, 2013
Online Publication Date Mar 12, 2013
Publication Date Mar 12, 2013
Deposit Date Apr 1, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 1, 2014
Journal Scientific Reports
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 1425
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:


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