The Facts about Selenium are many and varied. It is such a surprising nutrient and the health benefits of selenium are so many that it's hard to know where to start. There just simply is no one function of Selenium. But the main facts about Selenium are that, much like Vitamin D, it is essential for good health- yet is is almost completely overlooked by western medicine. Even most health advocates forget to mention the benefits of selenium.
The problems of selenium deficiency are extremely well-known in areas with low selenium soil levels, such as New Zealand and certain areas of China. But doctors in the rest of the world seem to believe that everyone else gets plenty of selenium no matter what they eat. Somehow, they believe that even those who eat nothing but processed foods are magically given adequate levels of selenium in their diet.
Even though researchers show that many people are chronically low in selenium, and testing for selenium is as easy as a blood sample- doctors virtually never suspect selenium deficiency nor do a selenium blood test nor recommend selenium supplementation.
It's too bad because the function of selenium acts in so many different ways to provide a vast array of health benefits.
The key to Selenium's varied modes of action are mostly due to its ability to form substances called 'Selenoproteins'. Also known as 'selenoenzymes', each protein created from selenium has a specific mode of action with very specific functions in specific tissues of the body. Disruption of any one of these unique substances will create dysfunction in that particular area.
Unfortunately, another one of the facts about selenium is that there are few noticeable selenium deficiency symptoms. Much like Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency, the effects only show up in subtle ways. In the short-term, the effects may be as small as an increased susceptibility to infections. In the long-term, selenium deficiency symptoms could show up as a higher likelihood of cancer, more rapid aging, Peripheral Neuropathy, or unusual problems such as Muscle Weakness from Taking Statin Drugs.
Not the kind of symptoms that doctors will go out of their way to look for, test for and urge the population to take supplements for the betterment of their health. Like many other nutrients, these 'long latency' effects also don't make for very conclusive peer-reviewed studies. Most organizations don't like studies that last for years and even decades to get results- and many participants in these types of studies aren't compliant with taking the supplements, drop out or are unable to be contacted.
Therefore, there are not a lot of conclusive long-term studies on selenium. We don't even really know what optimal selenium blood levels or Dosages of Selenium Supplements are. But the facts about selenium that we DO have show that the many benefits of selenium are worth taking a good look at this nutrient in order to learn more about its health effects.
1) It has Anti cancer properties
2) It is an immune system stimulant and has antiviral properties
3) Selenium is essential for Proper Heart Function
4) It is the precursor to the powerful antioxidant Glutathione
5) It is involved in production of thyroid hormone
6) Involved in Muscular strength
7) Required for healthy sperm function
Selenium benefits the immune system in SO many ways. It is absolutely essential that we get enough selenium in order to deal with the day to day onslaught of pathogens that come into our environment on a daily basis. Yet most of us do not -and it not ONLY leaves us vulnerable to viral infections like influenza. But, a little known function of selenium is that it also protects us from the VIRAL MUTATIONS that make viral infections like the flu change- making the virus MORE DEADLY than it would be in the face of proper selenium levels!
But Selenium and Influenza is only the beginning of how selenium affects our entire immune system. In fact, it is the failure of the immune system that allows a virus to attack the heart causing Heart Failure from Selenium Deficiency and is also at least part of the reason why selenium deficiency is implicated in higher incidences of so many different cancers.
But selenium's BIG role in immune system functioning lies in its ability to help create the potent antioxidant called Glutathione... but since glutathione is an antioxidant, we'll leave that discussion for the section below....
Arguably, one of the best facts about selenium is that it's most powerful function is its requirement in the creation of the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is the antioxidant of antioxidants. It is made inside each and every cell of the body, creating an interior safe zone against the 'oxidative damage' that occurs in... well, just about every aspect of life on earth.
Unfortunately, glutathione is not easily processed by taking it directly- and formulations that do absorb well, formulations usually referred to as Reduced Glutathione, are often wildly expensive. But a much easier and cheaper way to 'make' glutathione is to provide the cells with the raw materials in order to make it themselves. And selenium is one of the most important 'ingredients' in the 'recipe' to make glutathione.
"It is well established that in most industrialised
countries, selenium intake is so low and that
it might limit GPx (glutathione)synthesis
in the cells of the body."
EVOLVED REDUCED UTILIZATION OF
SELENOPROTEINS IN HUMAN BIOCHEMISTRY?
While it hasn't been studied from an antiaging perspective, the facts about selenium are that it may be one of the key nutrients keeping the ravages of aging at bay. Going back to our earlier discussion, how does this all effect the immune system? It's simple, if the cells are strong and able to defend themselves against minor invaders like 'free radicals', then the immune system is freed up to do battle against bigger invaders like cancer and the flu.
Selenium is extraordinarily important in heart health, yet Western Medicine has almost completely overlooked the detrimental effects that selenium deficiency can have on the heart. One unquestioned function of selenium on the heart is its role in Heart Failure.
The chronically low levels of selenium in the soil of an area in China called Keshan leads to Heart Failure from Selenium Deficiency. This well-known problem, called Keshan Disease, is cured, in most cases, by the administration of selenium. That's all they need and they are cured of heart failure!! Heart failure from the Side Effects of Statin Drugs is also an occurrence that can be blamed on the selenium depleting effects of the drug.
Here in the US, heart Failure is a HUGE problem- particularly in the elderly (who also tend to have very low selenium levels). But even though Selenium is one of the Known Causes of Heart Failure, selenium levels are almost NEVER checked in patients with recurrent heart failure. Not even in infants with Congenital Heart Failure for whom death is just as likely today as it was in 1970- selenium deficiency is never suspected, nor checked! What a travesty of our health care system. Heart Disease too- the kind that causes heart attacks - has been linked to selenium deficiency in some studies.
"We observed a significant, inverse correlation
between the plasma selenium and severity of coronary
atherosclerosis. These results confirm those of
Selenium Concentrations in Plasma of Patientswith
Arteriographically Defined Coronary Atherosclerosis
And supplementation of selenium even given AFTER heart attacks has a protective effect. But while few studies have been done on selenium and incidence of heart attacks and the jury is still out as to whether selenium can help prevent heart DISEASE, there is NO DISPUTE that adequate selenium levels are required in order to prevent Selenium Deficiency Heart Failure.
Selenium has been completely overlooked in the fight against cancer despite the fact that there is a LOT of evidence supporting selenium deficiency as a MAJOR contributing factor in several different types of cancer... interestingly almost universally in men only...
"The Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial
found supplemental Se (200 microg/day, as
Se-enriched yeast) to be associated with
significant reductions in cancer risks
in subjects with pre-treatment plasma
Se concentrations below 120 ng/ml (1.5 nmoles/ml)..."
An analysis of cancer prevention by selenium
Specifically, the strongest evidence for the benefits of selenium as a preventative for cancer is for prostate, lung, and colon cancers. Also, selenium seems to play a role in helping people who have already BEEN diagnosed with cancer to live longer as well- which is of great benefit when cancer survival, even with advanced medical techniques and medications, is still far too low.
Selenium and Vitamin E seem to work together in a 'synergistic' way. This means that when Vitamin D and selenium work together, their actions may have a more positive effect than if either one is being used by itself.
Also, when one or the other of Vitamin E or Selenium is DEFICIENT, if their is plenty of the OTHER nutrient, then the harm to the body seem to be less. In other words, selenium offers a protective effect againstVitamin E Deficiency and Vitamin E offers a protective effect against Selenium deficiency.
with both Selenium AND Vitamin E together. And this is one of the reasons why I highly recommend a professional strength Daily Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement. One full days dose contains 300 mg of highly absorbable selenium with 400 IU's of Vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols- the ONLY form of Vitamin E that should be consumed!
Keep reading for more Facts about Selenium Overdose
Facts about Selenium Dosages....
Getting the Right Selenium Dosage
Are YOU Getting Enough Selenium? See Why I recommend
Jigsaw Health's Essential Daily Packs
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