selenium

Selenium as antioxidant makers

Selenium is what is known as a trace mineral, which means that it is only present in the human body in minute amounts, but in this case a little bit of this mineral goes an awful long way.

Selenium is needed to make selenoproteins, which are known to be both enzymes and powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidants are essential to combat the harmful effects of oxidants, or free radicals, which are chemicals produced by the human body as a bi-product of the process by which energy is synthesized.

Left unhindered, free radicals bind to other cells and destroy them, leading to a number of serious health problems such as heart disease and cancer.

Selenoproteins therefore help to protect against those two illnesses, as well as many more. They also help to support the immune system and regulate the thyroid gland.

Sources of Selenium

Traditionally we get most of our dietary intake of sodium from plants, which in turn absorb the mineral from the soil in which they are grown.

The best sources of this mineral are fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the right kind of soil.

Unfortunately, you probably don’t know whether the fruits and vegetables you are buying in the supermarket were grown in selenium-rich soil or not.

And even then, if you are regularly eating fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, you are in a minority of people in developed nations, who tend to prefer more processed food which are much poorer in terms of vitamin and mineral content.

The upshot of this is that many of us are getting less selenium than we ought to be, and indeed less than our great grandfathers would probably have had in their diets.

This is not good news.

Though this mineral deficiency is still relatively rare, when it does manifest it can cause serious health problems such as hypothyroidism and heart disease, as well as compromising the immune system and hence making the body even more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infection.

Other possible results of selenium deficiency are osteoarthritis and mental retardation.

What causes this mineral deficiency?

People who may be at increased risk of it´s deficiency include those with gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, which may inhibit the absorption of selenium during digestion.

In fact, gastrointestinal problems are the main cause of it´s deficiency in the developed world.

If you suffer from such a disease, it is an excellent idea to start taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement containing this mineral if you are not doing so already.

This mineral deficiency has been shown in studies to exacerbate the effects of iodine efficiency, so those at increased risk of the former may want to start thinking about also supplementing with the latter as soon as possible.

As is often he case with vitamins and minerals, one supports another supports another, so a deficiency in one place can start a chain reaction of problems.

This is one of the reasons why multivitamin supplements are often preferred to individual supplements.

Availability

This mineral is available naturally in wheat, corn, and other plants, while selenium supplements usually contain a slightly different form of the mineral, sodium selenate or sodium selenite, which are still effective but less easily absorbed versions of the organic form of it.

Organic selenium is available as a supplement in for form of selenium yeasts, which have been shown to lower the risks of various forms of cancer, and are in fact the preferred selenium supplement of choice among nutritionists.

Medical Implications

  • Reduces the level of heart diseases

This mineral as an antioxidant agent can help to lower the risk of heart disease by preventing cholesterol from causing plaque to accumulate in the arteries.

This is a similar antioxidant action to that which also makes selenium and effective preventative cancer treatment (for some cancers.)

There is not yet sufficient evidence to make this mineral in its own right a treatment for heart disease, but it is frequently deployed as a supplemental treatment and is showing great results so far.

Interestingly, recent studies seem to indicate that incidence of skin cancer is higher in areas where the soil has a low selenium content.

This suggests that this mineral is an effective way to help ward off certain kinds of cancer.

  • Supports immune system

Selenium is recommended as a supplement to support the immune system and help protect against heart disease as well as some kinds of cancer. it is preferably to take vitamins and minerals together since many of them support each other in various processes, and so selenium is probably best taken as part of a complete multivitamin solution.

This mineral is available as pills, capsules, powder and other forms, but the most effective of which is thought to be selenium yeast mixed with water.

There are no significant reported side-effects from taking selenium, but if you do experience any yourself you should discontinue use and seek medical assistance.