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A Journal on Pediatrics, Neonatology, Adolescent Medicine,
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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Minerva Pediatrica 2008 April;60(2):201-9


language: English

Depression and suicidal behavior in alcohol abusing adolescents: possible role of selenium deficiency

Sher L.

Department of Psychiatry Columbia University New York State Psychiatric Institute New York, NY, USA


Depression and suicidal behavior in adolescents are frequently comorbid with alcohol and drug abuse. Alcohol abuse may lead to the deficiency of micronutrients including selenium, an essential trace element. In addition, dietary intake of selenium in some geographic areas is low. The combination of these two factors may result in significant selenium deficiency. Selenium plays an important role in brain function. Selenium is a potent protective agent for neurons through the expression of selenoproteins. Studies suggest that low selenium status is associated with depressed mood, anxiety, and cognitive decline. A tremendous amount of structural and functional brain development takes place during the teenage years. Many of the changes that take place during the second decade of life are novel and do not simply represent the remnants of childhood plasticity. Considerable evidence suggests that alcohol affects brain function and behavior differently during adolescence than during adulthood. Adolescents are more vulnerable to the long-term effects of alcohol abuse. The adolescent brain may be especially sensitive to a harmful combination of alcohol abuse and selenium deficiency. This combination may contribute to depression and suicidal behavior in adolescents. Recent research opens new avenues for the potential development of selenium containing compounds as preventive or therapeutic agents in psychiatric and neurological conditions. Healthy nutrition and possibly mineral supplementations should be a part of the treatment plan of adolescents with alcohol use disorders especially when alcohol misuse is comorbid with depression.

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