What are the benefits of selenium?

The essential trace mineral, selenium, plays a fundamental part in maintaining human health.

It's found mostly in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, and lymph nodes, which means it has a role to play in a wide range of bodily functions and is vital to the proper functioning of all these body parts.

Improves your health - eyes to your heart and beyond!

In fact, selenoprotems are involved in processes concerning everything from reproduction to thyroid activity, correct eye functioning, DNA synthesis, muscle function, and the efficient working of the heart.

For example, it's essential for helping the body to maintain healthy thyroid hormone function, which is critical for regulating metabolism.

It's also important for ensuring the health of the testes and seminal vesicles in men, and it works to facilitate the production of sperm and its motility, which explains why men have a greater need for this compound. Any deficiency in it can lead to infertility in males.

It is probably best known as an antioxidant because it's an essential component of glutathione peroxidase (GPx).

This enzyme works together with vitamin E, to carry out tasks associated with removing free radicals (toxins caused as a by-product of metabolic functions, and as a result of pollution).

Working as a team with vitamin E

Selenium and vitamin E work synergistically in that they carry out antioxidant and immunostimulating functions better together than they do alone.

Both work towards preventing the body ageing too quickly as a result of tissue oxidation, and as a result, they help prevent age related degenerative diseases.

The battle against oxidative stress

Because selenium works as an antioxidant, it may provide important health benefits to people whose oxidative stress loads are high. Examples of these are smokers, and those with inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, or people who suffer from infections that compromise their cell immunity.

For this reason, this compound has particular significance for those with infectious diseases such as HIV and AIDS. It's very much needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, and appears to be a key nutrient in counteracting the development of the virus and inhibiting HIV progression to AIDS.

The fight against cancer

Not only those with viral conditions need it. Several epidemiological studies have shown that people with the highest levels of it have a reduced risk of getting cancer. Those with high selenium levels who already have cancer may have less chance of dying from it.

As early as 1969, scientists showed that cancer mortality rates fell if people had high exposure to sources of it, and that it might therefore have a protective effect against cancer in humans.

Since then, the literature on the compound and cancer has grown extensively to include several important studies. Particularly famous are the results of the Linxian trial in China, which has one of the world's highest rates of throat cancer.

Plenty of other studies have shown that consuming more of it could help you cut your risk of developing and dying from prostate, colorectal and lung cancers.

Getting enough?

So how can we ensure we're getting enough selenium? In the human body, its blood and tissue concentrations are extremely low.

Despite its importance, there is less than 1 mg. of it in our body, which means that it must be supplied by our daily diet.

Good sources of it include meat, grains, fish and dairy products, but most of our common foods actually contain a very low level of selenium.

The reason for these low levels concerns the fact that it is a trace mineral derived from plants that extract selenium from soil. That means its availability is largely dependent on soil conditions.

Depends on the soil

Selenium-poor soils include those in volcanic regions, acid soils, and soils with high iron and aluminum content: parts of Europe, China, and New Zealand are particularly well known for having selenium-deficient soils.

Low or diminishing selenium status in some parts of the world, notably in some European countries, is really giving doctors cause for concern.

The amount of selenium in our meat sources also varies greatly, depending on the levels of it in the plants the animals eat.

Not only that, but most selenium in foods is lost during processing, particuarly when we're making foods such as white rice or white flour, which have much of their nutritionally valuable components removed.

Link between deficiecy in soil and cancer

Low soil levels of selenium are associated with higher cancer rates (whereas selenium-rich areas have below-average cancer rates, particularly for breast, colon, and lung cancer).

Other problems include heart disease, skeletal and muscle problems, growth retardation, reduced immune function, depression, and higher risk of miscarriage.

Getting the right level

All is not lost, however! Thanks to modern technology, we now have access to a range of good, high quality, supplements.

Preferably in its most easily absorbed form, L-selenomethionine, either on its own, or cultivated with garlic, in combination with other vitamins such as vitamin E, or minerals such as zinc, clinical trials have shown that a selenium supplement of at least 100 µg daily can boost health and may help prevent the problems mentioned above.

Medical references 220,221,222,223,224,225,226,227,228

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