Canadian Naturopathic College Partners with Rwanda Researchers to Show Benefit of Selenium in People With HIV

Map of RwandaAIDs, the official journal of the International AIDS Society has published a recent article that found that daily supplementation of selenium significantly reduces the rate of CD4 cell count decline. According to a release from Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the 2-year randomized controlled trial involved 300 HIV+ patients who had not begun antiretroviral therapy (ART). The results showed a 43.8% decrease in the rate of CD4 decline.

The research effort was a collaboration of Canadian and Rwandan teams. Information on the trial and parameters is here. The project was initiated by naturopathic doctor Don Warren, ND, a co–principal investigator, through the research department at CCNM. In the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Julius Kamwesiga, MD, MS, with the National University of Rwanda, led the local medical teams. The opportunity developed out of a small 2007 positive pilot in Kenya that was led by James Farquarson, ND.

Logo for Canadian College of Naturopathic MedicineExplains Warren: “After seeing remarkable results with routine daily selenium supplementation in a small group of AIDS patients in one of the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, and after reading the current literature on selenium and HIV/AIDS, I had the opportunity to present this information to physicians within the Rwanda Health Ministry. They responded with great interest and recommended that we conduct a fully randomized controlled study and provided several of their medical staff to participate in the trial.” The release from CCNM notes that, according to UNAIDS, there were 200,000 people living with HIV in Rwanda in 2007, half of whom are women. There are 4,500 deaths per year due to AIDS-related illnesses.

University of RwandaThe researchers close with a note that “the main source of selenium in the body comes from food; the amount of selenium in food depends on where the food is grown or raised. The levels of selenium in soils varies significantly around the world. Additional study will be required to see if similar benefit occurs in regions that are not naturally selenium deficient.”

Comment: This work has truly been a labor of love for Warren, whose professional portfolio also includes a stint as CCNM president and as head of the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. The CCNM collaboration is also a remarkable transcontinental collaboration and, to my knowledge, a first such for any of the accredited naturopathic medical schools. CCNM was the project sponsor. The results, as Warren says, are remarkable—especially for a natural product that, according to this site, costs as little as $.14/g.

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