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A trace mineral essential for many body processes, Selenium is found in soil. In the body, selenium is present in virtually every cell but is most abundant in the kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas and testes.
Although researchers didn’t discover the importance of this trace mineral until 1979, selenium quickly gained prominence as a potentially powerful cancer fighter. Many experts now believe it could prove to be one of the most important disease-fighting nutrients.
What does Selenium do?
Selenium acts as an antioxidant, blocking the rogue molecules known as free radicals that damage DNA. It is part of an antioxidant enzyme (called Glutathione Peroxidase) that protects cells against environmental and dietary toxins, and helps guard against a range of disorders – from cancer, heart-disease, cataracts and macular degeneration to strokes and even aging – thought to be caused by free-radical damage. It also fights viral infections, reduces the severity of cold sores and shingles, and helps relieve lupus symptoms.
Selenium has received a lot of attention recently for its role in combating cancer. A dramatic five-year study conducted at Cornell University and the University of Arizona showed that 200 mcg. of selenium daily resulted in 63% fewer prostate tumours, 58% fewer colorectal cancers, 46% fewer lung malignancies, and a 39% overall decrease in cancer deaths. In other studies, selenium showed promise in preventing cancers of the ovaries, cervix, rectum, bladder, oesophagus, pancreas and liver, as well as against leukaemia. Studies of cancer patients indicate that people with the lowest selenium levels developed more tumours, had a higher rate of disease recurrence, a greater risk of cancer spreading, and a shorter overall survival rate than those with high blood levels of selenium. Additionally, selenium can protect the heart, primarily by reducing the stickiness of the blood and decreasing the risk of clotting – in turn, lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. Moreover, selenium increases the ratio of HDL (good) cholesterol to LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is critical for a healthy heart. Smokers or those who have already had a heart attack or stroke may gain the greatest cardiovascular benefits from selenium supplements, though everyone can profit from taking selenium.
Selenium may be useful in preventing cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading causes of impaired vision or blindness in the elderly. It is also vital for converting thyroid hormone, which is needed for the proper functioning of every cell in the body, from a less active form (called T4) to its active form (known as T3). In addition, selenium is essential for a healthy immune system, assisting the body in defending itself against harmful bacteria and viruses, as well as cancer cells. Its immune-boosting effects may play a role in fighting the herpes virus that is responsible for cold sores and shingles, and it is also being studied for possible effectiveness against the human immune virus.
Selenium appears to have some anti-inflammatory benefits as well and may improve chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus and eczema.
Selenium improves your health – eyes to your heart and beyond!
Selenium is one of the essential body substances that can be used in a preventive manner for many diseases, including cancer, arteriosclerosis, stroke, cirrhosis, arthritis and emphysema. Selenium works closely with vitamin E in some of its metabolic actions and in the promotion of normal body growth and fertility. Selenium is a natural antioxidant that protects against free radicals and appears to preserve elasticity of tissue that becomes less elastic with aging, in fact selenoproteins are involved in processes concerning everything from reproduction to thyroid activity, correct eye functioning, DNA synthesis, muscle function, and the efficient working of the heart. For example, it is essential for helping the body to maintain healthy thyroid function, which is critical for regulating metabolism, and improves certain energy producing cells, including those of the heart, by ensuring adequate oxygen supply.