Selenium is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in the proper functioning of the body. Low levels of selenium have been associated with health issues, such as heart failure and cancer. This article is going to look at the numerous benefits that this mineral can provide.
Health benefits of selenium
Being an antioxidant, selenium helps to protect the body’s cells against the damage caused by free radicals. It is used to produce the enzymes selenoproteins which help to protect the cells. The enzymes can also fight against premature aging, which often occurs as a result of free radicals. An excess of free radicals can lead to oxidative stress, which has been linked to health issues such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Lowers cancer risk
Oxidative stress has been linked to some cancers, therefore the intake of selenium can help to reduce your cancer risk.
According to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, having a high blood level of this mineral helps to protect you against breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers. It can also help in regards to cancer treatment. A study found that selenium supplements aided in reducing radiation-induced diarrhea in women dealing with cervical and uterine cancer.
Lowers risk of heart disease
As selenium helps to control oxidative stress, it may help in keeping your heart healthy. It helps to fight inflammation – which is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. Studies have shown that an increase in blood selenium levels can lead to a decreased risk of coronary artery disease. The mineral has also been shown to reduce the risk of blood clots and reduce the build-up of cholesterol in our arteries.
Helps prevent cognitive decline
Free radicals have been linked to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Selenium can help counter this, as studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients often have lower blood levels of selenium. Aside from improving mental decline, a diet rich in this mineral can also help improve your memory.
The thyroid gland is responsible for a number of bodily functions including regulating appetite, sleep, weight and energy.
An under-active thyroid can lead to issues such as weight gain, insomnia, constipation and depression. Therefore, it is important to keep your thyroid as healthy as possible. The thyroid gland contains the highest amount of selenium than any other organ in the body. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, low levels of this mineral have been linked to an increased risk of hypothyroidism.
Additionally, selenium is also part of the production of thyroid hormones.
Boosts the immune system
With its ability to help lower oxidative stress in the body, this mineral helps to strengthen the immune system. It also helps to stimulate antibodies that fight off diseases and viruses. Studies have shown that it could potentially help to lower the risk of death and disease progression of HIV into AIDS. Other studies showed that selenium supplements led to fewer hospital visits and improved symptoms in HIV patients.
Reduced asthma symptoms
Asthma has been linked to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Therefore, due to this mineral’s ability to both lower inflammation and counter oxidative stress, some studies view the mineral as a potential treatment. Although there still needs to be more research on the effectiveness of this mineral in regards to lung health, some studies have shown that asthmatic patients who have higher blood levels of selenium had better lung function as compared to those with lower levels.
Food sources that contain selenium
The amount of this mineral in plant-based foods is largely dependent on where they are farmed. This is because selenium concentrations in soil and water vary. Therefore, it’s important to consume a variety of foods that contain minerals to ensure that you absorb enough of it. Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium. Other foods that contain it includes spinach, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, brown rice, halibut and herring.
Too much selenium?
While selenium toxicity is rare, it is possible to exceed the recommended amount of 55 mcg per day – especially when taking supplements or from consuming too many Brazil nuts. Signs of selenium toxicity include hair loss, dizziness, muscle soreness, and nausea.