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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.
Selenium is probably best known as an antioxidant because it is an essential component of glutathione peroxidase (Gpx) Selenium carries out antioxidant, and immunostimulating functions and works towards preventing the body ageing too quickly as a result of tissue oxidation, and as a result, it helps prevent age related degenerative diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers.
Dr. Richard A Passwater, PHD
World-renowned expert on nutrition and nutritional supplements, and respected biochemist.
The battle against oxidative stress
Because selenium works as an antioxidant, it may provide important health benefits to people whose oxidative stress loads are high. Examples of these are smokers, and those with inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or people who suffer from infections that compromise their cell immunity
For this reason, this compound has particular significance for those with infectious diseases . It’s very much needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, and appears to be a key nutrient in counteracting the development of viruses and retroviruses including those responsible for Ebola, bird Flu and Hepatitis.
The fight against cancer
Not only those with viral conditions need it. Several epidemiological studies have shown that people with the highest levels of it have a reduced risk of getting cancer. Those with high selenium levels who already have cancer may have less chance of dying from it. As early as 1969, scientists showed that cancer mortality rates fell if people had high exposure to sources of it, and that it might therefore have a protective effect against cancer in humans, Since then, the literature on the compound and cancer has grown extensively to include several important studies. Particularly famous are the results of the Linxian trial in China, which has one of the world’s highest rates of throat cancer. Plenty of other studies have shown that consuming more of it could help you cut your risk of developing and dying from prostate, colorectal and lung cancers.
Dr. Larry C Clark, MPH, PHD
University of Arizona.
Getting enough Selenium?
So how can we ensure we’re getting enough selenium? In the human body, its blood and tissue concentrations are extremely low.Despite its importance, there is little of it in our body, which means that it must be supplied by our daily diet.Good sources of it include meat, grains, fish and dairy products, but most of our common foods actually contain a very low level of selenium. The reason for these low levels concerns the fact that it is a trace mineral derived from plants that extract selenium from soil. That means its availability is largely dependent on soil conditions.
Selenium depends on the soil.
The selenium content of food is dependent upon the extent of its presence in the soil, whether directly, as in plant foods, or indirectly, as in animal products whose selenium levels are derived from feed. Even if selenium levels are adequate in the soil,the sulphur contained in widely used fertilizers and sulphuric compounds found in acid rain inhibit plant absorption of the mineral. Selenium-poor soils include those in volcanic regions, acid soils, and soils with high iron and aluminium content: parts of Europe, China, New Zealand and Africa are particularly well known for having selenium-deficient soils.Low or diminishing selenium status in some parts of the world, notably in some European countries, is really giving doctors cause for concern.
The amount of selenium in our meat sources also varies greatly, depending on the levels of it in the plants the animals eat. However, not all forms of selenium are equally useful in the body. Inorganic sources such as sodium selenite and selenate are typically added to human and animal foods, but much of the selenium consumed in this form is excreted rather than retained and used. Selenium compounds in foods are easily reduced by heat, processing, and cooking. Refining of grains reduces selenium content, by 50 to 75 per cent, boiling by 45 per cent. Organic Selenium found in nature (plants) is ideally suited to digestion and metabolism. These selenoamino acids are retained by the body and result in more selenium available for critical functions. Organic selenium is the ideal form of selenium supplementation for human and animal diets. Supplementing one’s diet with organic selenium assures adequate amounts of this useful mineral in the body to act as an overall immune booster and powerful anti-oxidant.
Link between deficiency in soil and ailments
Low soil levels of selenium are associated with higher cancer rates (whereas selenium-rich areas have below-average cancer rates, particularly for breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer). Other problems include heart disease, skeletal and muscle problems, growth retardation, reduced immune function, depression, and higher risk of miscarriage.A deficiency of selenium may lead to premature ageing. This is because selenium preserves tissue elasticity. Selenium may improve energy levels, prevent and relieve arthritis, slow down the ageing process by attacking free radicals and prevent cataracts.
It is an important element that protects against high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and hypertensive kidney damage. Selenium with vitamin E has been used successfully in reducing or eliminating recurrent angina attacks and increasing strength and vigour and improving electrocardiograms in heart patients.
It has been used successfully in improving the condition of persons with cystic fibrosis. Muscular dystrophy patients respond positively to selenium and vitamin E. Research in the early 1970’s has proved that selenium protects against radiation. It also binds to metals such as mercury, cadmium, silver and thallium, preventing their absorption in the body and aiding their excretion.
Dr. Will Taylor.
University of Georgia. USA.
How much Selenium do you need.
The RDA for selenium is 70mcg for men, and 55 mcg for women daily.To produce major benefits , up to 600 mcg a day may be needed. Falling below the RDA however, may lead to higher incidences of cancer, heart disease, immune problems and inflammatory conditions of all kinds, particularly those affecting the skin. Insufficient amounts of selenium during pregnancy could increase the risk of birth defects (especially those involving the heart) or, possibly, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Early symptoms of selenium deficiency include muscular weakness and fatigue.
Most experts agree the optimum dose for long-term use of selenium should fall between 100mcg and 400mcg daily. Up to 600mcg daily may be taken for a limited time as a treatment for viral infections or as part of a cancer treatment programme. Vitamin E enhances selenium’s effectiveness.
The most abundant food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, seafood, poultry, and meats. Grains, particularly oats and brown rice may also have significant amounts, depending on the selenium content of the soil in which they grow.
Which is the best supplement.
Thanks to modern technology, natural selenium in a 100% organically-bound form (converting inorganic, low bio-available selenium into organic, high bio-available selenium) is now available in South Africa as a product called Selenox.
Selenox is manufactured from Selenoexcell powder imported from the USA where it is the only selenium product to be awarded “GRAS Status” (safety) by the FDA and is the selenium product of choice for use in research by the National Cancer Institute of America.
Selenox contains many essential seleno-proteins (including selenomethionine and selenocysteine) in the form found naturally in plants (e.g. broccoli and garlic).
Selenium – immune system booster, anti-oxidant, AIDS and cancer defence home page