More about Selenium
Just a few decades back, there was a great debate regarding this trace mineral that was once found abundantly in soil. Some experts thought it was essential for animals but dangerous to humans. Now, thanks to science, that debate has been put to rest, and nutritional experts agree this is one miraculous, and very much essential, mineral.
Why it's so important
Selenium is needed for our bodies to create something called "glutathione peroxidase," which our bodies then use as an antioxidant. Thus, selenium is essential for healthy immune functioning and may, in fact, be able to help fight a variety of diseases and even protect cells from aging and natural degeneration — hence the reason selenium is sometimes suggested for "fighting cancer." It's that powerful.
Its potential to stimulate the immune system, especially when combined with Vitamin E, has been shown to be beneficial when fighting recurrent illnesses, infections, and inflammation. Research also suggests selenium helps build resistance to disease, decreases infection rate, and allows quicker recovery for burn victims.
Selenium supports immune functioning two additional ways — it appears to stimulate both white blood cell production and thymus functioning — both required to keep us healthy and vibrant.
Could it lower the risk of cancer?
Many studies have shown that where selenium is abundant in the soil or added to the diet, cancer rates decrease, particularly with breast, colon, rectum, prostate, lung, ovarian, bladder, pancreas, and skin cancers. Research has also shown it may decrease mortality rates in people who already have cancer as well as potentially preventing tumors in those who don't.
One study, for example, showed that people given 200 mcg of selenium for 7 years had a 50% decrease in cancer rate, and the men had a 65% drop in prostate cancer. For this reason, there's strong evidence to believe it may be anti-carcinogenic or, at the very least, instigate some additional research in this area.
Lower the risk for heart disease?
Heart disease is a concern for many Americans (for good reason — it's the number one killer), and again, as with cancer findings, the rates for heart disease are highest in areas where selenium intake is low or where very little amounts are found in the soil. Because it fights free radicals, scientists theorize it may help decrease the number of clogged arteries and reduce inflammation in the heart. It's also been shown to increase HDL cholesterol (the "good" fat) and decrease the bad LDL cholesterol as well as helping the blood flow more smoothly through our arteries by making it less "sticky." One study showed a decrease in symptoms in almost 100% of the patients who supplemented with selenium and Vitamin E.
Selenium, especially when combined with Vitamin E, has also been linked to anti-aging properties because it appears to inhibit physical and mental deterioration while supporting the metabolism by stimulating healthy thyroid functioning — keeping our bodies from feeling sluggish or out of sorts.
It may also be significantly beneficial for anyone suffering from inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, because it fights the substances that cause the damage to tissues. Studies have shown selenium may reduce joint swelling, tenderness, and morning stiffness.
Selenium, because of its role in the production of glutathione peroxidase in the eyes' lens, has been shown to have significant preventative effects on cataract formation.
Because glutathione peroxidase helps protect against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light, selenium may also be important for preventing and perhaps even treating sunburn and other forms of sun damage.
Much of selenium's recent popularity for its positive effects may be because so many people are suffering from a deficiency. You see, the amount in the foods we eat depends largely on the amount in our soil. And since the amounts in much of the soil have been depleted, there is a greater chance for deficiencies. Combine that with the fact that selenium in food is lost when the food is processed and refined, and we could be unknowingly shortchanging ourselves of this valuable trace mineral.
This is significant because numerous studies have shown that a deficiency of selenium may lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and a variety of other unhealthy states. In fact, people with low levels of selenium are found to have a higher rate of asthma, disease, infections, sterility, exhaustion, and birth defects. Plus, lacking enough of this mineral may also cause sore and weak muscles.
Risks of deficiency are even greater for young adults, vegetarians, the elderly, smokers, and people who are exposed to toxic chemicals.
Not just for those who are deficient
While deficiencies are the greatest concern, it should be noted that supplementing with selenium has been shown to enhance immune functioning even in those with normal levels of this mineral in their blood. One such study showed that when people received an additional 200 mcg of selenium per day, the ability of the lymphocytes to kill tumors increased by 118%, and white blood cell activity increased by 82.3%! This research has experts theorizing that we need more selenium than even a "good" diet provides — making supplementation a must.
It looks like some of our super antioxidants, like Vitamins E and C, may have some pretty good competition with this well-documented trace mineral. With such a large array of benefits, it's clear we'll be hearing more about selenium and its potential to help keep our bodies healthy in the near future.