What is Selenium? | 7 Amazing Selenium Benefits
Selenium benefits for the body could improve your life and lengthen it. Potentially cancer-protective and virus-fighting, why don't we hear more of it?
Let's change that today as we unveil the secrets of selenium.
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What Is Selenium? And Your Most Pressing Questions
Selenium is a trace element that you can naturally find in many foods and the soil. Trace elements can be found in your body but in very little amounts.
It is nutritionally significant since it plays a role in growth and reproduction, DNA production, and thyroid hormone metabolism. It is also an antioxidant that may protect against oxidative damage and infection.
Growing research hints at the importance of this element to the human body. So much so that some recommend that soil that is severely low in the element be supplemented with selenium.
Now that we know what selenium is, let's talk more about what it can do for us.
Selenium Benefits You Need to Know
1. May Be a Potent Antioxidant
When our body is overcome with free radicals and not enough antioxidants, this results in oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress may contribute to aging, heart disease, neurological disease, kidney disease, and cancer. The list goes on.
Unfortunately, we are exposed to many sources of free radicals—those produced by our own bodies and others from outside forces.
Meanwhile, external sources of free radicals may include:
- cigarette smoke
- environmental pollutants
- some drugs
- industrial solvents
Selenium may act as a protective antioxidant that could help fight oxidative stress, keeping us safe from chronic conditions.
2. May Provide an Immune Boost
Feeling under the weather? A healthy dose of selenium might make a great addition to your glass of orange juice.
Another way selenium protects us is by boosting our immune system.
Scientists believe that the immune system includes selenium-dependent functions.
Animal studies found that animals with less selenium in their body don't kill pathogens as subjects those that are selenium-sufficient.
Selenium may help protect our immune system cells and could help them more effectively kill harmful pathogens.
3. May Help Manage Allergies and Asthma
Are you wary of pollen season? Selenium benefits those that have allergies and asthma.
The antioxidant properties of selenium could help lower the effect of oxidative stress from asthma. Studies also show that it may promote immune responses to asthma.
But the relationship between allergies and asthma is complex. Animal studies are promising, but human studies are inconclusive.
While scientists work out the mechanisms behind selenium and your immune response, keep your antihistamines handy.
4. May Be Heart-Healthy
Selenium may help fight inflammation and oxidative stress that could lead to heart complications and a trip to the doctor's office.
Some reviews found that there's an inverse relationship between selenium intake and your risk of heart disease. If true, this could mean that amping up your diet with selenium could protect you from heart diseases.
However, other studies suggest that there may not be a significant link between selenium and heart disease.
While selenium is an essential element and may play a key role in heart health, it's still not clear if selenium supplements could actually better your chances against heart disease.
Your doctor still may not recommend selenium supplements for heart health.
5. Selenium Benefits for Thyroid
Selenium is important to thyroid function.
In addition to playing a role in thyroid hormone production and metabolism, its antioxidant properties may also protect your thyroid from oxidative damage.
While a healthy amount of selenium may help protect your thyroid, it's not clear if supplements might have added benefits.
6. May Promote Healthy Aging
Selenium is widely accepted as crucial to healthy aging.
As we age, we may accumulate oxidative damage to the body's cells. This makes maintaining your antioxidant defenses that much more important.
Some studies suggest that selenium could help prevent age-related diseases by reducing inflammation and DNA damage.
However, it's not clear if taking selenium supplements may actually have anti-aging properties.
7. Selenium May Keep Cancer at Bay
- colon and rectum
However, high-quality studies show that this may not be true. This is especially evident in prostate cancer, the most widely studied subject.
How Do I Know if I Have Selenium Deficiency?
Now that you learned about selenium health benefits, let's find out if you're a bit low on the element.
- drink alcohol
- take birth control pills
- have Chron's disease or ulcerative colitis
According to the CDC, selenium deficiency might not make you sick. Instead, it might make you more prone to illnesses.
Diseases characterized by severe selenium deficiency include Keshan disease, Kashin-Beck disease, and myxedematous endemic cretinism.
What Happens if I Consume Too Much Selenium?
As it is a trace element and your body needs only small amounts, too much could lead to selenosis.
Selenonosis is a condition where you have too much selenium in your blood.
- garlic breath
- discolored teeth
- loss or brittle nails or hair
- metallic taste in your mouth
Other symptoms could include tremors, breathing problems, and kidney and heart failure.
For adults, limit your selenium intake to 400 micrograms (mcg).
So if you are a fan of Brazil nuts, maybe one to four pieces will do.
Best Food Sources of Selenium
- brazil nuts, 6-8 pieces – 544mcg, 989% DV
- tuna, 3 ounces – 92 mcg, 167% DV
- halibut, 3 ounces – 47 mcg, 85% DV
- sardine, 3 ounces – 45 mcg, 82% DV
- roasted ham, 3 ounces – 42 mcg, 76% DV
- shrimp, 3 ounces – 40 mcg, 73% DV
- roasted chicken, 3 ounces – 22 mcg, 40% DV
- hard-boiled egg, 1 large – 15 mcg, 27% DV
- whole-wheat bread, 1 piece – 13 mcg, 24% DV
- oatmeal, 1 cup – 13 mcg, 24% DV
*DV – Daily Value
Can I Get Selenium Supplements?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend getting vitamins and essential minerals from food sources. But if you're low on a specific nutrient, fortified foods and supplements may help fill the gap.
Fortunately, there are many food sources of selenium in the Western diet.
While selenium benefits your health and promotes normal bodily functions, exceeding the upper limit might be detrimental.
Here’s an infographic guide. Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy infographic for reference:
Check out this video to find more info on selenium benefits, and whether you're getting enough or too much of it:
Despite having been studied for decades now, there is still so much we don't know about selenium. And because selenium is a trace element, too much of it might actually be bad for your health. This makes recommending selenium supplements riskier.
Yes, selenium is crucial to your overall health, but the US diet may contain enough selenium to meet dietary needs. So whether or not you need to take up your intake may depend on your doctor.
Do you think selenium benefits are worth discussing with your doctor or pharmacist? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below!
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