What is selenium?

Saturday, November 16, 2013 by: Aurora Geib
Tags: seleniu, trace mineral, brain function

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(NaturalNews) Selenium was first used as treatment for dandruff but this essential trace mineral (required only in small amounts by the body) has enjoyed certain breakthroughs connected with its role defining its importance in the overall nutritional schema. When taken together with beta carotene, vitamins E and C, selenium, according to recent findings, can prevent the creation of free radicals that are responsible for diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Selenium also shares a connection with protein as it is incorporated into the latter creating seleno-proteins that function as important anti-oxidant enzymes with the capacity to stop damaged DNA molecules from replicating and preventing tumors from developing. (

Furthermore, selenium is part of the iodine metabolic pathway and contributes to the synthesis of protein. If one is deficient in iodine, chances are they will also happen to be deficient in selenium. Selenium plays a role in the thyroid gland's regulation as well as in the fortification of the immune system. According to, reduced activity on the part of the thyroid hormones can be a sign of selenium deficiency especially in those diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

Although there are clearly no differences between synthetic and organic selenium, it appears that the organic form is a better choice as it increases blood selenium concentration far better than its synthetic variant.

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, selenium intake throughout life may affect how well a person can retain his cognitive functions as they age; suggesting that sufficient levels may also aid in preventing Alzheimer's disease. (

Sources of selenium

Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, interestingly made the observation that the best soil to grow nutritious food in is soil that was recently flooded. Flood rivers fertilize surrounding farmlands by bringing fresh nutrients resulting in a burst of plant growth and nutrition. Damming and preventing rivers from flooding result in nutrient depleted fields producing nutrient depleted food. (

Selenium that is naturally found in the soil affects the selenium content in plants that get their nutrients from the soil and the animals that depend on plants for food. Without the natural methods of enriching the soil, commercial farming has now resorted to the use of fertilizers to increase product yields; preventing the natural absorption of selenium. One more reason; therefore, to choose organic, whole foods especially in regions where soil selenium levels are high so as to ensure that you get the necessary selenium your body needs.

Meat can also be a source of selenium. Animals fed with organic selenium rich feed is sure to contain sufficient amounts in its meat. Just be sure to buy free range and farm raised animals and avoid buying animals fed with genetically modified feed or subjected to antibiotics. There is nothing wrong in eating right, especially when your life depends on it.

What happens if you are deficient in selenium?

To be deficient in selenium is rare, except as mentioned earlier, in countries where there are low selenium levels in the soil. Selenium deficiency has been connected with heart disease, hypothyroidism and a weakened immune system. By itself, it doesn't cause illnesses but makes the body susceptible to other illnesses brought about by nutritional, biochemical or infectious stressors.

Patients placed on an intravenous line (IV), whose digestive systems do not function, have also been observed to suffer from selenium deficiency and doctors should monitor the selenium status of patients in this condition to ensure that they get sufficient levels of selenium. People also suffering from gastro-intestinal problems may suffer from selenium deficiency as gastro-intestinal problems may reduce the absorption of selenium, affecting the absorption rate of other nutrients. Monitoring of nutritional status is important in order to provide the appropriate medical and nutritional treatment.

Diseases directly associated with selenium:

• Keshan disease - This condition occurs in children and is characterized by enlarged and poor heart function. This condition was first noticed in China in the early 1930s and is still seen in areas of the Chinese countryside where the selenium level in the soil is low.
• Kashin Beck Disease - A condition affecting joints and bones otherwise known as osteoarthropathy
• Myxedematous Endemic cretinism resulting in mental retardation

How much selenium do we need?

Unlike protein or other major nutrients, the body only needs a small amount of selenium, requiring only about 55 micrograms daily. Most of this can be sourced from a diet of whole grains, seafood and nuts. Supplementing with selenium may not be necessary if you observe a healthy and balanced diet.

It is neither possible to get too much of selenium in food nor in supplements and selenium toxicity usually occurs from industrial exposure. However, it is suspected that if you get more than 900 micrograms per day, it is possible to overdose on selenium.

Adverse effects of getting too much selenium or Selenosis include:

• Gastro-intestinal symptoms
• Hair loss
• White blotchy nails
• Garlic breath odor
• Fatigue
• Irritability
• Mild nerve damage

Selenium's tolerable upper dietary intake is pegged at 400 micrograms/day for adults.

Current research on selenium

Heart disease - Despite what the Food and Drug Administration may say about drugs being the only way of preventing and curing disease, the local medical authorities in China have found the answer by taking a more proactive path to the treatment and prevention of Keshan disease - a recognized form of selenium deficiency and a type of heart failure that causes an enlarged heart, weakened heart muscle and eventual death. This condition was first observed in China where low selenium levels were observed and eventually in other parts of the world.

Once the authorities in the Keshan province of China found that the heart condition was merely related to selenium deficiency, they instituted an inexpensive and extremely effective supplementation program eradicating the condition (hopefully for good). (

Cancer - Selenium disrupts the carcinogenic process responsible for causing cancer by inhibiting mutations and by functioning as an anti-oxidant. Dr. Peter Glidden, N.D. in a recent radio interview disclosed that 200 mcg of selenium was all it took to produce an effective protection against cancer. According to him, research done over several years has shown that 200 mcg of selenium intake reduced breast cancer by 82 percent, rectal and colon cancer by 69 percent, prostate cancer by 54 percent and even lung cancer by 39 percent. (

Arthritis - In a study led by Dr. Joanne Jordan from the University of North Carolina, selenium was discovered to have significantly lowered the chances of arthritic pain in the knee joints. Having heard of how people in severely selenium deficient areas in China developed Kashin-Beck, a condition that caused joint problems early in life, Dr. Jordan suspected that selenium might play a role in preventing osteoarthritis.

In a study conducted on 940 volunteers, it was revealed that only limited amounts of selenium were necessary to protect against knee arthritis. Dr. Jordan's team compared the extent of knee osteoarthritis on the X-rays with the amount of selenium in a volunteer's body as reflected in the selenium measurements in their toenail clippings. They discovered that of the three groups, of which the participants were divided, the group with the highest selenium levels faced a 40 percent lowered risk of knee osteoarthritis compared to the group with the lowest selenium levels.

Moreover, for every tenth of a part per million added to participants' bodies, a 15 to 20 percent reduced risk was observed leading researchers to hypothesize that preventing or delaying osteoarthritis of the knees and other joints could be averted by giving them sufficient selenium. Osteoarthritis of the knees is a condition that makes walking painful and among adults in developed countries, it is a leading cause of activity limitation. (

HIV - The body needs selenium to maintain normal metabolism. Although other nutrients bind with protein, selenium actually becomes incorporated to proteins causing seleno-proteins. These seleno-proteins are believed to slow down the spread of infection. Persons infected with HIV; however, will have degraded seleno-proteins, presumably due to a protein called Tat produced by the HIV virus. The Tat appears to target a seleno protein called TR1. To deal with this situation, scientists decided to experiment by supplementing with selenium as a way to affect the way Tat acted with TR1.

To test this idea, they isolated blood cells from human volunteers who were not HIV positive then infected the cells with the virus. They then added sodium selenite, a form of selenium, to the cell culture. What they discovered surprised them: selenium effectively stopped the replication of HIV by 10-fold compared to the cell cultures with no selenium. They were also able to selectively reduce the production of TR1; indicating that a deficiency in selenium containing protein encouraged the replication of HIV by 3.5 percent.

Male infertility- For men, selenium is necessary for sperm production and mobility. So they should see to it that they get sufficient selenium in their system.

The body simply cannot enjoy sex if it does not have what it needs to function properly. Using the analogy of a car, you can't drive it without fuel just as you can't possibly enjoy sex if you are always tired. Ensuring that the body has the nutrients that can sustain its sex drive is key to igniting the inner passion.

Nearly half of the selenium in a man's body is found in the testes and the seminal ducts and they lose selenium through their semen.

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