Minerals: Essential for Health – Selenium
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Selenium is another essential mineral that follows on the heel of Chromium to help us remain fit and healthy. The many benefits of selenium include its ability to boost the body’s immune system and protect it against disease such as heart disease. It is a potent antioxidant and prevents hardening of the arteries. It increases sperm count, helps in the development of healthy fetus, supports pancreatic health and keeps skin looking young.
Selenium is found in every cell of human body, but especially in kidneys, lever, spleen, pancreas and testes. In males, almost half of the selenium is concentrated in the testicles and the seminal ducts around the prostate gland. That is why it is considered essential to maintaining good health of the human anatomy specific to males.
As an antioxidant, selenium works with glutathione peroxidase to prevent damage by free radicals.
Five selenium-containing glutathione peroxidases (GPx) have been identified: cellular or classical GPx, plasma or extracellular GPx, phospholipid hydroperoxide GPx, gastrointestinal GPx, and olfactory GPx. Although each GPx is a distinct selenoprotein, they are all antioxidant enzymes that reduce potentially damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as hydrogen peroxide and lipid hydroperoxides, to harmless products like water and alcohols by coupling their reduction with the oxidation of glutathione . Sperm mitochondrial capsule selenoprotein, an antioxidant enzyme that protects developing sperm from oxidative damage and later forms a structural protein required by mature sperm, was once thought to be a distinct selenoprotein but now appears to be phospholipid hydroperoxide GPx.
It supports cancer prevention due to its antioxidant properties and detoxification process. As an efficient antioxidant, it acts as an immune booster. There is a great deal of evidence indicating that selenium supplementation at high levels reduces the incidence of cancer in animals. More than two-thirds of over 100 published studies in 20 different animal models of spontaneous, viral, and chemically induced cancers found that selenium supplementation significantly reduces tumor incidence.
Selenium and vitamin E are synergistic and enhance the effectiveness of each other. Selenium slows down aging and hardening of tissues through oxidation. It is useful in keeping youthful elasticity in tissues. It prevents arterial deposits and ensures smooth flow of blood. It is needed for healthy cardio-vascular system.
Selenium is essential for proper functioning of neurotransmission. Depletion of selenium in brain causes mood swings and depression.
Selenium is also involved with the production of thyroid hormone. Its inadequate level would lead to decreased sexual desires. It also alleviates hot flushes and menopausal distress.
Selenium detoxifies toxic metals dangerous to our body like arsenic and mercury – It binds with these toxic metals and, once bound, the toxic substances lose their potency and become harmless.
Deficiency Symptoms of Selenium
Selenium deficiency results in decreased activity of the glutathione peroxidases as well as some other thioredoxin reductase and thyroid deiodinases. Even when severe, isolated selenium deficiency does not usually result in obvious clinical illness. However, selenium-deficient individuals appear to be more susceptible to additional physiological stresses. Deficiency of this mineral causes premature loss of stamina.
Selenium deficiency has been associated with impaired function of the immune system. Individuals who have a deficiency in selenium are often reported as becoming much more susceptible to infections, bacteria and other illnesses.
Selenium deficiency appears to enhance the virulence or progression of some viral infections. The increased oxidative stress resulting from selenium deficiency may induce mutations or changes in the expression of some viral genes.
Rich Food Sources of Selenium:
Brazil nuts contain the highest amounts of selenium than any other known food type – Mushrooms are another natural source of selenium. It is also possible to obtain selenium through other nuts, grains and seafood. Livestock who are allowed to graze on grass and grains grown in soil containing selenium, will typically contain selenium within their meat.
Supplementation & Dosage:
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 55mcg/day. But, selenium is one mineral that can be easily supplemented just by the dietary sources. Regular consumption of Brazil Nuts and incorporating grass fed meat in diet is enough to provide the needed amount of selenium.
Toxicity & Caution:
Selenium is needed in very minute quantities. High doses of selenium (in excess of 250mcg/day) can be toxic. Side effects related to taking too much selenium include a sense of fatigue, stomach problems and halitosis. This deficiency is known as selenosis.
To be on the safe side of selenium, enjoy the Brazil nuts.