Health Benefits of Selenium

Health Benefits of Selenium

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  1. Selenium is a trace mineral that occurs naturally in soil and water. Once it is absorbed in plants its journey through the food chain begins and ultimately it reaches  your plate.Selenium is only required in small amounts however the health benefits of selenium are essential for optimal health in animals and humans.

    Selenium levels vary in different regions of the United States. People who live in the eastern coastal plains and the pacific northwest regions of the U.S. average 60 to 90 mcg of selenium daily which is still considered sufficient vs. different areas of the country. In other U.S. regions people get an average of 125 mcg from their diet each day. In areas of the world like China and Russia, there is a higher incidence of selenium related diseases due to soil that is deficient in selenium. On the other hand, Brazil nuts which has the highest selenium level of all foods, grows in the selenium rich soil of Brazil.  

     How Selenium Protects Your Body

    There are specific enzymes that are dependent on selenium for body processes to function properly known as selenoproteins. Selenium also supports the action of antioxidants which play an important role in the prevention of cell damage from free radicals that can cause cancer. Specifically, there is some evidence that it may prevent prostrate cancer.

    Even though more studies are needed, according to Medline Plus, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, some studies suggest selenium may help: 

    • Prevent some cancers and cardiovascular disease
    • Help protect the body from harmful substances and poisonous effects of heavy metals.
    • Improve fertility in men.

    Other research studies focus on the health benefits of selenium to determine its effectiveness on various medical conditions, however in some cases the results are inconclusive and the research continues: 

    • Allergies
    • Cataracts
    • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
    • Stimulate the immune system that may possibly inhibit the replication of the HIV virus( findings to confirm this are incomplete)
    • Improves the athletic and mobility of your body as it ages
    • Low thyroid levels(Hypothyroidism)
    • Mood disorders
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis

     Selenium Deficiencies

    Although selenium deficiencies are rare in the United States, it has been determined that people with specific conditions such as Crohns disease, and HIV also have a selenium deficiency. Medical treatments may include selenium supplements to manage any of these medical conditions. Patients who are fed intravenously for long period of time are also at risk for a selenium deficiency. They are monitored to decide if selenium supplementation is necessary.

    Diseases Due to Selenium Deficiency

    Kashin-Beck: Is a selenium deficient disease that destroys the joint cartilage in the ankles, elbows, knees and wrists. It is a permanent disabling disease that enlarges joints and is responsible for stunting growth in severe cases. 

    Kashin-Beck is most prevalent in specific regions of China, particularly in the farmland areas with selenium poor soil, including Tibet.  North Korea and Siberia are also other countries where there is a high incidence of the disease.  Fortunately, there has been a decrease of Kashin-Beck due to socioeconomic progress in these countries.

    Keshan Disease:  Is an abnormality of the heart muscle caused by inadequate selenium. The potentially fatal disease was first detected in China and was once responsible for many childhood deaths. It wasn’t until the connection with selenium poor soil that the cause of the disease was identified. People who suffer from Keshan disease due to selenium deficient soil have also been found in Finland and New Zealand.  Selenium supplements are given to these patients for the successful treatment of the disease.

    Myxedematous Endemic Cretinism:  Selenium is necessary for the production and conversion of thyroid hormones.Insufficient selenium in combination with an iodine deficiency causes the slow destruction of the thyroid.  Myxedmatous Endemic Cretinism develops once the thyroid is destroyed which leads to mental retardation. This disease is studied in East Africa where it is most prevalent. In severe cases the thyroid destruction affects an child in his mother’s womb who will be born with the disease.

    Selenium Toxicity

    Selenium health benefits are essential to good health but too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect.  Selenium toxicity in the United States is rare; however, excess selenium can cause a condition called selenosis. People who suffer from selenosis will have symptoms such as fatigue, hair loss, irritability, nausea, and nail problems.

    Foods That Have Selenium and Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

    The Selenium is present in many foods at different levels that will give you the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) needed. RDA varies from 20 micrograms to 70 micrograms for infants for the lower RDA requirements to a higher RDA for breast feeding women. You should not exceed a  maximum RDA of 400 micrograms which isn’t necessary but still considered safe, in order to avoid toxicity.

    The following are some foods from the highest selenium content to lower levels that include fish such as cod, herring, red snapper, tuna as well as beef, poultry and some nuts:

    Brazil Nuts (have a very high selenium content so their consumption should be very limited,1/2 ounce which is 3 to 4 nuts has 270 micrograms of selenium)










    Cottage Cheese


    Brown rice

    Whole wheat bread

    Black Walnuts

    A healthy diet that includes sufficient selenium will help support your goals for a healthy body.

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