The Benefits of Selenium

October 21, 2021

the benefits of selenium

The Benefits of Selenium 

Even though you may have never heard of it selenium is an incredibly powerful nutrient that is vital to your health. It is only needed in small amounts but has an important part in maintaining the processes within the body. In this article we go over the benefits of selenium, foods rich in selenium, and symptoms of selenium deficiency. 

What Are The Health Benefits of Selenium? 

From reducing the risk of developing certain forms of cancer to boosting immune system function, this powerful nutrient has quite a few health benefits. 

1. Can Reduce Your Risk of Certain Cancers

Studies suggests that selenium may help lower your risk of developing certain forms of cancer. This can be attributed to selenium's ability to decrease DNA damage, oxidative stress, and boost immune system function. It can also destroy cancer cells. 

For example, a review of 69 different studies that included over 350,000 individuals found that having high levels of selenium in the blood was associated with a lower risk of developing certain types of cancer. This includes: 

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate cancer(s)

2. Has Powerful Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidants are compounds often found in many fruits and vegetables that prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can cause premature aging, illness, and disease. An excess of free radicals can lead to oxidative stress. Selenium can help reduce oxidative stress by curbing free radicals. 

Overall, selenium has powerful antioxidant properties that can fight oxidative stress and potentially protect you harmful diseases. 

3. Can Boost Immune System Function 

Selenium has been shown to play an important role in immune system function. Its antioxidant properties help lower oxidative stress which can reduce inflammation and enhance immunity. Your immune system keeps your body healthy by fighting off potential threats. 

Research shows that higher levels of selenium in the blood are associated with enhanced immune system response. In fact, selenium deficiency has been shown to harm immune cell function and lead to a delayed immune system response. 

4. Vital For Thyroid Health 

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the front of your neck, directly below your Adam's apple. It regulates your metabolism and controls growth and development. Selenium is vital for thyroid health as it helps protect the thyroid against oxidative damage. Interestingly enough, thyroid tissue contains a higher amount of selenium than any other organ in the human body. 

A study with over 6,000 people found that low levels of selenium were associated with an increased risk of autoimmune thyroiditis. This is a chronic disease in which the body interprets its own hormone products (T3, T4, and TSH) as threats and tries to destroy it by producing special antibodies that target the thyroid's cells. 

Benefits of Selenium Supplements For Thyroid Health 

One analysis found that taking selenium supplements daily for three months resulted in fewer thyroid antibodies, improved mood, as well as an improved sense of overall well-being. 

5. Can Help Prevent Mental Decline

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States each year. It is a debilitating condition that causes memory loss and can significantly affect one's thought processes and behavior. 

Studies suggest that people with Alzheimer's disease have lower blood levels of selenium compared to other individuals. Antioxidants in both foods and supplements can improve memory in people with Alzheimer's. For example, a small study found that consuming selenium-rich foods each day improved verbal fluency as well as other mental functions. 

6. May Reduce Asthma Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways that carry air in and out of the lungs. These airways become inflamed, narrow and swell which can make it difficult to breathe.

Asthma is often associated with increased levels of inflammation and oxidative stress and interestingly enough, people who have asthma also tend to have lower blood levels of selenium. In fact, one clinical-grade study found that asthmatic patients with higher levels of blood selenium had better lung function compared to those with lower levels. 

One study, in particular found that giving people with asthma 200 mcg of selenium each day reduced their need of corticosteroid medications used to control their symptoms. 

    7. May Help You Maintain A Healthy Heart

    Low levels of selenium have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. This suggests that a diet rich in selenium may help you maintain a healthy heart. 

    One study found that a 50% increase in blood selenium levels was correlated with a 24% reduced risk of developing heart disease. This is in part due to selenium's anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to decrease oxidative stress in the body. Too much inflammation and oxidative stress has been linked to atherosclerosis—the buildup of plaque in arteries. 

    Incorporating foods that are rich in selenium into your diet is an excellent way to maintain heart health by controlling inflammation and oxidative stress. 

    Foods Rich In Selenium 

    Fortunately, there are many tasty foods rich in selenium. This includes: 

    • Brazil Nuts: One of the best food sources of selenium
    • Fish: Such as sardines, tuna, oysters, clams, halibut, and shrimp
    • Ham: Provides 60% of the RDI (recommended dietary intake) of selenium 
    • Eggs: A hard-boiled egg provides roughly 20 mcg of selenium

    How Much Selenium Per Day? 

    Research shows that for both adult men and women over 19 years of age 55 micrograms daily of selenium is enough. Women who are pregnant and lactating need around 60 to 70 micrograms daily. 

    Symptoms of Selenium Deficiency 

    What does an individual deficient in selenium experience? If you are not getting enough of this vital nutrient you may experience some of the following symptoms: 

    • Fatigue
    • Foggy mental state
    • Weakened immune system
    • Hair loss
    • Muscle weakness
    • Infertility 

    How To Diagnose Selenium Deficiency

    Selenium deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test done by a healthcare professional which indicates recent selenium intake. Nail or hail samples can also be used to determine selenium deficiency.

    Side Effects of Selenium 

    When taken at normal and recommended doses this vital mineral does not typically have any side effects. Side effects of too much selenium, however, can include: 

    • Bad breath
    • Fever
    • Nausea

    Additional side effects of selenium include liver, kidney, and possible heart problems. 

    The Benefits of Selenium Summary 

    Selenium is a mineral found in the soil that naturally appears in water and certain foods. Although it is only needed in small amounts, selenium plays an important role in our overall well-being. There are many health benefits of selenium. This includes: 

    • Can reduce your risk of developing cancer
    • Powerful antioxidant properties 
    • Can boost immune system function
    • Vital for thyroid health
    • May help prevent mental decline
    • Can help you maintain a healthy heart

    Although it is not common it is still possible to have too much selenium just as it is possible to not get enough. Selenium deficiency can be diagnosed by simple blood tests as well as nail and hair samples. 

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