Selenium is a semi-metal and a chemical element, which is abbreviated with the symbol of the element “SE”. In addition, it is a vital trace element of the group of minerals that can be found in the body in the range of micronutrients.
The 8 main benefits of selenium
Here are some ways that selenium benefits your body:
1. It can help increase fertility
Selenium is necessary for sperm motility and also increases blood flow, two key components that play a role in conception and infertility.
Selenium is integrated into the mitochondrial capsule of the sperm and can affect the behavior and function of the sperm when they move through the vaginal canal.
It seems that both low and high selenium concentrations have a negative impact on the amount of sperm. Therefore, it is important for your fertility that you comply with the recommendation, but do not exceed it.
Some studies also show that selenium can actually reduce the risk of miscarriage. At this point, however, more research on male and female infertility related to selenium supplementation was undertaken.
2. Acts as an antioxidant and protects against oxidative stress
The benefits of selenium include the ability to combat the aging process and support the immune system by reducing free radical damage.
Selenium is necessary to combat oxidative degradation of cells and to protect against mutations and DNA damage that can cause disease.
3. It can help defend against cancer
Selenium is especially useful if you have a weak immune system or a history of cancer in your family. Interventions with high-dose selenium treatments have shown that selenium promotes cancer defense capabilities in the body.
Studies have shown that selenium is effective in reducing the risk of cancer, cancer-related mortality and the severity of cancer, particularly in the liver, prostate, colon and lungs.
Selenium acts as a small mechanic in the body. It enters the cell nucleus, where DNA and genome are stored and damaged, and binds to protective antioxidants such as glutathione and to work to reduce and repair DNA damage, which could lead to mutation of cancer cells and to tumor growth
This happens because selenium has a special role in the activation of selenoproteins, which play an enzymatic role that helps antioxidants do their best work.
There is evidence that the benefits of selenium can not only reduce the risk of cancer but also help slow cancer progression and tumor growth.
Studies have shown that a high dose of 200 milligrams of selenium per day may be effective in protecting DNA, reducing the risk of cell mutations and the development of cancer.
Other studies show that in areas of the world where the soil is the lowest in selenium, the risk of cancer increases compared to areas with a higher content of natural selenium. In certain cases, selenium prevents cancer growth.
4. Increase immunity
Studies have shown that selenium is necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system and can also be an important nutrient to counteract the development of viruses, including HIV.
In patients who were already infected with HIV, selenium has been shown to help slow the progression of the disease to AIDS.
5. It improves blood flow and reduces the probability of heart disease
Low concentrations of selenium are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Selenium supplements or an increase in selenium-rich foods can help prevent coronary heart disease.
It is believed that selenium can improve heart health by fighting inflammation, increasing blood flow, reducing oxidative stress from free radicals, and supporting antioxidant activities.
To date, selenium concentrations have been inversely associated with the risk of coronary heart disease in observational studies. However, observational studies can sometimes lead to misleading evidence.
Therefore, it is still unclear whether selenium is generally prescribed for patients with heart disease.
6. Regulates thyroid function
Research has shown through numerous studies that there is a connection between thyroid metabolism and selenium deficiency. Selenium acts as a catalyst for the production of active thyroid hormones.
If you imagine that your body is a manufacturing facility, your thyroid would be the main person responsible for regulating the entire operating system. So, if the thyroid does not work properly, there are many serious and notable consequences.
The thyroid controls numerous important everyday body functions, which include appetite, sleep, temperature, weight, energy, and more.
A problem with thyroid function can cause negative symptoms such as irritability, muscle weakness, fatigue, weight gain or loss, sleep disorders, and many other reactions. Therefore, it is beneficial for the thyroid and the body in many ways to get enough selenium.
Lack of selenium correlates with problems within the thyroid and how it synthesizes the correct hormones. Therefore, we can increasingly see the value of the use of selenium supplements to treat autoimmune and thyroid disorders.
Selenium acts as a strong thyroid protector. Regulates the production of reactive oxygen in the gland and protects it from antibodies that can cause thyroid disease.
For these reasons, it’s benefits have also been studied to see if they can help patients with Hashimoto’s disease, the Graves’ disease, and pregnant women with anti-TPO antibodies.
Selenium can increase immunity, decrease autoimmune responses and reduce inflammation in these populations.
7. Increase longevity
Studies have shown how important this mineral is vital to our health and longevity. If you want to live a long life, selenium is definitely a mineral that you want to include in your diet.
Selenium has also been studied for the treatment of dozens of diseases ranging from asthma to arthritis, thyroid diseases, and heart disease.
The risk of these diseases increases with age. Therefore, its consumption can help defend the body and contribute to a long life.
Selenium is a trace element, which means we only need a small amount. However, the body can store it in its system as it plays a fundamental role in many important bodily functions.
Therefore, it is important to consume it regularly, especially as you get older, to take advantage of all its benefits.
8. Helps reduce asthma symptoms
Observational studies have shown that patients with chronic asthma may have lower levels of selenium. In addition, they have shown that people with asthma who took supplements experienced fewer asthma symptoms than those who took a placebo.
Experts believe that supplementation may be a useful addition to medication for patients with chronic asthma. However, more research is needed before this becomes a common practice since researchers still cannot determine the full effect on lung function.
If the selenium content in the body is too high, poisoning can occur. This manifests with ventricular fibrillation and heart failure. A blood test also guarantees clarity in this case.
What results in a selenium deficiency?
An inadequate supply is not only based on a diet low in nutrients. Rather, it can arise from chronic diseases of different origins.
Diseases such as cystic fibrosis, inflammatory bowel diseases, anorexia, bulimia, and kidney failure, especially with chronic dialysis, can cause deficiency symptoms.
The immune system suffers from this deficiency as well as muscle function.
A reduction in performance and hair loss are also symptoms. Men often suffer from reduced sperm formation or even infertility. Kashin-Beck disease may also be due to this deficiency.
This diagnosis involves changes in the joints or reduced bone growth.
Where is selenium found?
Its four natural states are: elementary selenium, selenide, selenite, and selenate.
Two types, selenate, and selenite are found mainly in the water, while the other two types are found in the soil and, therefore, in food sources. In the food chain, it is found in both animal and vegetable foods.
High selenium content in the soil ensures that fruits and vegetables have a particularly high value. The soil is particularly saturated in North America.
In Asia and Africa, on the other hand, agricultural areas are quite deficient, which explains the deficiency that often occurs there.
Foods with relevant selenium values should be consumed together with vitamin C and the amino acids glycine, and cysteine, as they promote their absorption in the body. However, it should be borne in mind that an overdose of vitamin C may even hinder the absorption of this trace element.
The following foods are particularly rich in selenium:
The following values refer to a total of 100 grams:
- Salmon with 41.4 µg and cod with 37.60 µg is especially recommended.
- Lamb with 218.80 µg is as recommended as beef, pork liver, Emmental cheese, and eggs, which with 30.80 µg are also ideal to meet the requirements of the trace element.
- Plant-based foods such as asparagus with 10 µg, red cabbage with 2.30 µg, and mushrooms with 26.00 µg are excellent sources of micronutrient.
- Brussels sprouts, chickpeas, lentils, and soybeans also have high content.
- Brazil nuts with 1917 µg and coconuts are rich in the mineral.
- Rice has a high selenium content of 9.30 µg.
- Sunflower seeds with a content of 79.30 µg are also very suitable.
Anyone suffering from metabolic diseases should know that this can hinder their absorption or that it can at least lead to a temporary deficiency. Therefore, it is advisable to verify your own level of selenium with a simple blood test.
Studies with additional supplementation showed an improvement in inflammation levels in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis if the thyroid was not yet irreparably damaged.
Vegans should also make sure they get enough selenium to prevent deficiency symptoms. Pregnant women and nursing mothers also have a greater need.
An increased need or deficiency can be covered with capsules. However, it should be clarified beforehand if this really exists.
An overdose could cause undesirable side effects.
- Nausea, possibly with vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Joint pain.
- Hair loss.
- Altered nail growth.
- Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet.
A blood test can be used to determine which capsules are correct so that these side effects of selenium do not occur.
How much selenium does the body need?
Because it cannot be produced by the body itself, an adequate level of selenium can only be guaranteed through a healthy diet.
The amount needed depends on several factors. Gender and age are decisive.
- Children and men need approximately 70 µg per day after age 15.
- Girls and women around 60 µg per day.
- The requirement for babies up to the fourth month of life is 10 µg per day.
- The needs in childhood and adolescence are staggered.
- It is 15 µg per day until the fourth year of life, 20 µg until the seventh year, and 30 µg per day until the tenth year of life.
- From the age of 13, the daily requirement is 45 µg.
- At the age of 15, the requirement increases to 60 µg per day.
- In elderly women and pregnant women, it remains at 60 µg.
- In the case of elderly men and women who breastfeed, on the other hand, it increases to 70 µg per day.
It is important to keep in mind that if you are already eating the right amounts of micronutrient with your diet, consuming more selenium may not be beneficial and high doses that reach 400 micrograms may even be harmful.
Experts warn that it is vital for the public to understand that the benefits of selenium work best when the consumption of foods that contain ideal values is not exceeded.
No one should exceed the recommendations by adding very high doses without consulting a doctor.