New Zealand's soil has a low concentration of selenium (Se), and its residents have a lower Se status than do most other peoples. However, New Zealanders do not suffer from the Se-responsive ills that afflict their farm animals and some people in China. New Zealanders, particularly those in the South Island, may have adapted to their low Se environment by thriftiness in urinary excretion of Se. Low glutathione peroxidase activities in their tissues have not resulted in noticeable damage or changes. The enzyme activity can be raised to a plateau by Se supplements, but there is no evidence that supplementation leads to better health. Since patterns of coronary heart disease, hypertension, and cancer in New Zealand resemble those in other Western countries, no direct link between these diseases and Se level is likely.