Selenium Benefits

Selenium is one of those trace minerals that you can’t get too much of, nor get too little, either.  Insufficient amounts of dietary selenium leads to abnormal nail beds, cataracts, heart disease, growth retardation, muscle cramps, and the big C.  Too much of it, however, leads to toxicity and can cause loss of hair, nails and teeth, skin inflammation, fatigue, paralysis, and even death.   Selenium intake should be at least 50 micrograms, and not to exceed 200 micrograms.  Rich sources of this non-metal mineral are the following:

  • Brazil nuts and walnuts;
  • Brown rice;
  • Garlic and onions;
  • Cereals, bread and bran;
  • Brewer’s yeast, beer, wheat germ and fermented foods;
  • Broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables;
  • Mushroom and tomatoes;
  • Molasses;
  • Eggs, liver and kidney;
  • Edible sea weeds;
  • Tuna fish, herring and shellfish like oyster and mussels.

In the body, selenium binds with proteins to make selenoproteins, which are antioxidant enzymes important in preventing cellular damage from free radicals.  This is why anti-aging products tout selenium in their ingredients.  Regular consumption of this trace mineral in recommended amounts results to smoother skin and thicker hair (note that too much of it has an opposite effect).  But apart from its anti-aging property which everybody – men and women, young and old (especially old) – can benefit from, this is nothing compared to what it can do to fight cancer, cardiovascular disease, and HIV.

Actually, much of selenium benefits have to do with the same antioxidant properties that would make people of certain age want to consume it to restore their youth.

Selenoproteins are indeed potent antioxidant enzymes.  A study at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1996 discovered that subjects who took 200 mcg of selenium a day for four and a half years had lower incidence of cancer by as much as one-third.  Further, the trace mineral regenerates vitamin C so it can continue to eliminate free radicals.   Working in tandem with vitamin E, selenium eliminates toxins in the body.  This explains why regular and regulated doses of selenium are effective against cancers of the breast, colo-rectum, lungs, prostate and skin.

In the area of cardiovascular health, selenium was found to be one of the antioxidants that help inhibit LDL oxidation – bad cholesterol gone haywire in plain speak – which lead to higher incidence of heart problems.  When bad cholesterol is oxidized, plaque in arteries is formed and attracts more lipids and macrophage, or inflammatory cells.  In time, this accumulation restricts blood flow.  As a result, a host of emergency conditions can arise, like heart attack or stroke.

In the case of HIV/AIDS, patients who have consistently low levels of selenium are at higher risk of mortality than those who have sufficient amounts of the trace mineral in their diets.  AIDS destroys the body’s immune systems, and selenium deficiency is attributed to decrease the number of immune cells.  When immune cells decline, the disease progresses rapidly, resulting to higher mortality.  Further, since selenium helps eliminate toxins out of the body, not enough of it means a shrinking army of street sweepers to take the garbage out, not good news when the body is already under enough stress.

But there is good news for people who suffer from confused and depressed mental states.  Ever wonder why eating walnuts helps boost your brain power?  Thank selenium for it.  A study has been conducted among the senile and those with Alzheimer’s disease, and it concluded that low levels of selenium further aggravated their condition.

In regions where iodine is not likely to come by, selenium is a good substitute to maintain thyroid health.  The thyroid secretes a hormone called T4 which can only be converted to T3 (another hormone) with the help of selenium.  Both hormones are crucial to metabolism:  too little means hypothyroidism, or slow metabolism that results to obesity; too much results to hyperthyroidism, or fast metabolism that results to rapid weight loss, and in undiagnosed cases, death.

The best way to fill your daily selenium requirement is to eat a variety of vegetables, nuts, fresh and saltwater foods. Don’t be tempted to pile on more than what you can eat though (perhaps in the hopes of fast-tracking your journey to youthful glow).  At more than 200 micrograms, selenium turns its coat and no longer becomes a friend, but a foe.