A little-known essential mineral, selenium, is currently a hot topic in the world of personal health.
Clinical studies have shown promising results from enriching your diet with selenium, and proponents of adding selenium to a balanced diet have touted its effectiveness at supporting many aspects of healthy bodily function.
Keep reading to learn how selenium affects your health and how you can ensure you are getting sufficient selenium in your diet.
Benefits of Selenium
Due to its more recent discovery as an essential mineral to antioxidant functions, not all the benefits of selenium have been fully studied and research is ongoing.
Here is an overview of what current research has proven about selenium.
As the name indicates, selenium is integral to the production of selenoproteins. These proteins are a key component both in antioxidant defence and in the stimulation of genes that produce antioxidants.
Having antioxidants in the body alleviates oxidative stress and keeps free radicals within ideal limits. Lower free radical counts protect vulnerable cells from damage and ensure better health and longevity.
Moreover, selenium blocks NF-kB activation (nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells), a primary factor in controlling inflammation throughout the body.
2. Immune Support
Researchers have found selenium possesses the unique ability to not only mitigate DNA damage but also to destroy cancer cells.
Nearly 70 studies have been conducted across a sample of 350,000 people. Their findings corroborated evidence that individuals with higher blood levels of selenium had a lower risk for certain cancers like breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer.
There is, however, one important caveat found in all these studies: participants with positive results maintained their high selenium levels via diet and not supplements. Some evidence indicated the benefits of oral selenium supplements in specific cases where individuals were undergoing radiation therapy for cancer, but these were not statistically significant.
3. Mental Health Benefits
Studies indicate Alzheimer's disease is one of the top ten fatal diseases around the world. This devastating condition involves a steady mental decline involving cognitive ability, memory loss and behavioural changes.
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, so the scientific and medical communities have dedicated their efforts to preventing the disease or slowing the decline for as long as possible.
Research has also found individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s typically have reduced levels of selenium in their bloodstream.
Additionally, Alzheimer’s patients who eat a diet rich in antioxidants experienced improved memory and a less rapid rate of cognitive decline showing Selenium offers significant potential in battling Alzheimer's disease.
Ensuring patients maintain a diet with the right amount of selenium could have a significant impact on treatment. Moreover, several studies of seniors who eat a selenium-rich Mediterranean diet indicate a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, further corroborating selenium’s potential for Alzheimer’streatment.
4. Thyroid Health Benefits
The highest concentrations of selenium in the body are found in the thyroid gland. As selenium helps regulate thyroid function, a deficiency in selenium has been linked to multiple thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s Disease and Grave’sDisease. Moreover, regions of the world where the soil is poor in selenium tend to demonstrate a higher incidence of thyroid disease.
5. Cardiovascular Health Benefits
Several studies have indicated that there is an associated link between low selenium concentrations and an increased risk of heart disease. Findings also strongly indicated that adding selenium-rich foods to a healthy diet may help to prevent coronary heart disease for at-risk individuals. The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and free radical/oxidative stress reduction properties may also be a contributing factor to better cardiovascular health as well.
TheEffects of Selenium Deficiency
Consuming a diet that does not contain a sufficient amount of selenium (approximately 55 micrograms daily) can lead to a number of negative side effects. Thyroid problems, inflammation, cancer and poor cardiovascular health are just a few of the more unpleasant results.
In places where selenium soil content is low, all of these effects have been observed and studied for decades. The selenium-poor region of China that runs from the northeast to the southwest provides many examples of selenium deficiency, and people there have suffered the effects of selenium deficiency throughout their history.
The upper limit of what an individual can consume in a day is 400 micrograms, or eight times the recommended daily dosage.
The majority of people can get all the selenium they need from the food they eat daily.
Here are some of the highest best sources of selenium :
- Oysters: - 238% - daily value per 85 grams.
- Brazil Nuts: - 174% daily value per 5-gram nut.
- Halibut - 171% daily value per 159 grams.
- Yellowfin Tuna - 167% daily value per 85 grams.
- Eggs - 56% daily value per two large eggs or 100 grams.
- Sardines - 46% daily value in four sardines or 48 grams.
- Sunflower seeds - 27% daily value per 84 grams.
- Chicken breast - 12% daily value per four slices or 84 grams.
- Shiitake mushrooms - 10% daily value per 97 grams.
Eating foods rich in selenium offers many benefits to maintaining good health, improving longevity and preventing illness.
Not too bad considering you can get your daily dose in only 1 Brazil nut per day!