encyclopedia

Selenium

Natural Sources:
Brazil nuts, wheat germ, molasses, sunflower seeds, whole wheat bread, dairy foods.

Forms:
Standardized selenium supplements including powders, capsules and tablets.

Therapeutic Uses:
– Aging

– AIDS

– Anti-bacterial

– Antioxidant

– Anti-viral

– Anxiety

– Burns

– Cellular Regeneration

– Immune System

– Mental Functioning

– Mood Disorders

– Skin Health

– Trace Element Deficiency (RDA is 60-75 mcg/daily)

– Vascular Disorders

– Viral Infections

Overview:
Selenium is an essential trace element or micronutrient needed by the human body for health in very small quantities (60-75 micrograms daily (millionths of a gram)). Selenium is a vital nutrient required for thyroid hormone activation, and there is accumulating evidence linking low levels of selenium with heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Selenium is an integral part of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, a very potent antioxidant protecting the body from damage due to oxidation by free radicals. Aside from the important antioxidant activity of selenium and glutathione within all cells of the body, selenium also helps to synthesize antibodies and co-enzyme Q10 and aids in the transport of ions across cell membranes. Selenium is particularly known as an anti-aging supplement and it is recognized that with age the body’s selenium levels fall. According to Italian research, selenium blood levels fall 7 percent after age sixty and 24 percent after age seventy-five. Selenium is considered to be especially powerful for preventing cancer and heart disease. A large-scale Dutch study looking at almost three thousand older persons found that getting high levels of selenium in the diet cut the chances of lung cancer in half. A large-scale Finnish study found that those with the lowest blood levels of selenium were three times more likely to die of heart disease than those with the highest blood levels of selenium. Selenium also boosts immunity. A placebo-controlled study of elderly people given 100mcg of selenium daily showed lymphocyte response to foreign particles soared back to youthful levels – up 79 percent. Studies also show that early trace element supplementation with selenium (and other micronutrients) may be beneficial after major burns; it is associated with a significant decrease in the number of bronchopneumonia infections and with a shorter hospital stay when data are normalized for burn size.

Chemistry:
Selenium is a trace element required in the human diet.

Suggested Amount:
The recommended dosage of selenium is between 60-75mcg daily. The anti-aging dosage of selenium for older people is recommended at 200 mcg daily. For general maintenance of good health (for people of all ages), a daily dosage from standardized supplemental sources of around 100-200mcg is recommended. Selenium is particularly recommended for patients with HIV and AIDS, as well as for people with any other virus. Maintaining an adequate intake of selenium (i.e. 200mcg daily) actually helps keep viral particles from breaking out of cells and spreading the damage and destruction to the body. This has been shown to prolong survival in AIDS patients. Additionally, it has been shown that the HIV retrovirus slowly depletes the body of selenium.

Drug Interactions:
None known.

Contraindications:
None known.

ide Effects:
None known.

Potential Toxicity in High Doses:

It is important to note that selenium can be toxic in high dosages (i.e. 2,500 mcg daily and up) and overdoses can lead to hair loss, liver damage and joint inflammation. Even excessively eating Brazil nuts has been shown in animal studies to lead to toxicity problems stemming from the high levels of selenium. Jean Carper in the book Stop Aging Now reports that Japanese fisherman who get over 500mcg daily appear to have no signs of toxicity or harm. However, inhabitants of China have developed severe toxic symptoms after 5,000 mcg daily. The anti-aging dose of 200mcg daily is considered to be perfectly safe according to experts.

References:

Carper, J. 1995. Stop Aging Now. HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022-5299. Pp. 117-123.

Clark LC, Combs G.F.Jr, Turnbull BW et al. 1996. Effects of Selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin. JAMA 276: 1957-63.

Kneckt P et al. 1988. ‘Selenium Deficiency and Increased Risk of Lung Cancer’ Abstract of paper read at the Fourth International Symposium on Selenium in Biology and Medicine, Tubingen. West Germany. July 1988.

Reinhold U et al. 1988. ‘Selenium Deficiency and Lethal Skin Cancer’. Abstract of paper read at the Fourth International Symposium on Selenium in Biology and Medicine, Tubingen. West Germany. July 1988.

Yu MW et al. 1999. Plasma selenium levels and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma among men with chronic hepatitis virus infection. American Journal of Epidemiology 150(4): 367-74.

Additional Information:

Deficiency Symptoms

A deficiency of selenium in the diet can have serious health effects. Cases of gross deficiency lead to heart disease (Keshan Disease) and osteoarthritis (Kashin-Beck Disease). Other symptoms include immune system weakness and the increased risk of some cancers, accelerated aging and other illnesses associated with a weakened immune system. Research carried out across the USA found that those states with low levels of selenium in the soil had the highest incidents of cancer, whereas those States with high levels of selenium in the soil had the lowest rates of cancer. [Reference: Archives of Environmental Health September/October 1988]. A recent UK study found that most people in the UK are not getting sufficient amounts of selenium in their diet. The average consumption of selenium is only 34 mcg per day which falls well short of the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI), formerly recommended daily allowance, set by the Government in 1991 which stated that the desired level for men is 75 mcg and 60 mcg for women. These low levels are thought to have serious implications on health. It is also important to note that selenium can be toxic in excess (i.e. 2,500 mcg daily and higher).