A Little Selenium, A lot of Benefits

Like other antioxidants, selenium protects cells from free radicals that can cause cancer and heart disease. Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to good health but required only in small amounts.

Selenium has been shown to be a factor in contracting Keshan disease, and selenium defiency may also affect muscle discomfort and weakness. In areas where selenium levels are low, cancer rates and deaths from high blood pressure are both greater.

Although excessive amounts of selenium have never been observed in humans, in animals it causes stiffness, lameness, hairloss, blindness, and even death.

Plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries throughout the world. The content of selenium in food depends on the selenium content of the soil where plants are grown or animals are raised.

Selenium is found in meat, wheat germ, nuts (particularly Brazil nuts…more on these next), eggs, oats, whole wheat bread, and brown rice. Sadly however, modern farming practices have depleted the soil, so many people don’t get sufficient selenium from their diets anymore. Refining and processing also reduce selenium levels, which is why eating whole, unprocessed, organic food is the best way to obtain the nutrient. Since this isn’t always possible, it is highly recommended that you use supplements with selenium.

Where you get Selenium

Lobster, clams, crabs, whole grains, Brazil nuts and oysters. Selenium content of foods can vary. For example, Brazil nuts may contain as much as 544 micrograms of selenium per ounce. They also may contain far less selenium. It is wise to eat Brazil nuts only occasionally because of their unusually high intake of selenium.

Herbs and spices that contain selenium are black pepper, cayenne, chili, cinnamon, ginger, mustard seed, turmeric, sage, thyme, cumin, coriander, allspice, fenugreek, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, curry, garlic, paprika, salt, nutmeg, anise, caraway seed, savory, parsley and chervil. (Source: Nutrition Data)

Selenium and Asthma

In a study of 115 people, researchers in New Zealand found that those getting the most selenium in their diets were five times less likely to have asthma than those getting the least. The Daily Value for selenium is 70mcg. Meat, chicken and seafood are good food sources. even better, one Brazil nut contains 120mcg. Just be sure you don’t have a nut allergy.

Selenium and Diabetes

Selenium supplements appeared to raise the risk of diabetes in a large study designed to test whether selenium could prevent skin cancer.

In a trial study done by The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer, roughly 1,000 residents of the eastern United States were given selenium supplements (200 micrograms) or a placebo, every day. After nearly eight years, 58 of the 600 selenium takers were diagnosed with diabetes, while only 39 of the 600 placebo takers were diagnosed with diabetes. That comes out to a near 50-percent higher rate among those who took the selenium. Therefore, if you are at risk of becoming diabetic or are already, you should avoid too much selenium.

Until there are more studies completed, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stick to a multivitamin that has no more than 55mcg, which is the recommended level of selenium. Most multivitamins have less, so you’d be safe with most, but do check your multivitamin just to be sure! You don’t want to take too much selenium, though. Too much (over 900 meg daily) can lead to depression, nervousness, vomiting, and nausea.

Taking selenium is particularly recommended for people with certain digestive conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Caution: If you are taking anti-coagulant or anti-platelet medications or have a bleeding disorder consult your healthcare provider before taking this product.

Read More: Essential Nutrients