French researchers say that high levels of selenium, an antioxidant found in nuts and liver, may protect men from developing diabetes.
The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, found that men who had high levels of selenium in their bloodstream were half as likely to develop dysglycemia as men with low levels. Dysglycemia is a condition of abnormal glucose levels in which the body fights to normalize blood sugar, and can lead to diabetes.
The study, which was conducted at the University of Montpellier, followed 1,162 healthy men and women for nine years. At the beginning of the study, the volunteers were between the ages of 59 and 71.
"Our results showed that for elderly males, having (blood) selenium concentrations in the upper third of the population was significantly associated with a lower risk of developing dysglycemia over the following nine years," said study leader Tasnime Akbaraly in a statement.
However, selenium did not protect women. "The reason we observed a protective effect of selenium in men but not in women is not completely clear," Akbaraly said, "but might be attributed to women being healthier at baseline, having better antioxidant status in general, and possible differences in how men and women process selenium."
Other researchers have suggested that selenium could help regulate insulin levels in the body, although not all studies have shown selenium to lower the risk of diabetes. In fact, a previous study at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that cancer patients who took 200 micrograms of selenium daily were almost 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association says that 23.6 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, and 57 million people are prediabetic.