Selenium Supplements and Longevity
What is Selenium?
The Boring Facts: Selenium is an element that was originally discovered in 1818 by the famous scientist Berzelius. It is a trace element that can be found in the soil. The soil transfers this mineral to the food that is planted there; therefore, the amount within a food is largely determined by how much is in the soil where it is grown.
The Essential Facts: This element is essential for our bodies due to its antioxidant properties. Selenium is found in every cell within our body, but is found in abundance in our kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas, and the male testes.
Since soil is the determining factor of how much of this mineral is within food, there are many factors that will affect the soil and foods levels. One determining factor is how close the crop is to volcanic activity. Volcanic ash contains large quantities; so much that some areas can actually have too much, which can lead to ingesting a dangerous amount of selenium. High levels are dangerous, because this mineral is very similar to arsenic. In general, there are actually very few foods that you could overdose on selenium. The one exception is Brazil nuts.
Aside from volcanic ash, another great way for selenium to penetrate into our foods is if the soil is irrigated by sea water. For this reason, crops that grow in California tend to be rich in selenium.
Other foods where you will find this element, regardless of soil is mushrooms, egg yolks, seafood, poultry, kidney, as well as liver and muscle meats. Some of the vegetables with healthy levels are onions, garlic, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, and whole grains or seeds. Unfortunately, since the amount of selenium in a given vegetable or grain, depends on the selenium content of the soil where it is grown, it is very hard to determine how much selenium someone has in their diet.
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Brazil NutsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Selenium deficiencies are not very common in people who have average health. Although most people are not deficient, research has shown that the average person is on the low end of normal, which means they may benefit from increasing their selenium levels. Those who are most apt to have a selenium deficiency are people who have an autoimmune thyroid disease or an intestinal disorder.
If there is a deficiency in youth, a child can develop Keshan disease, which leads to a weakened heart. For this reason, it is vital that a child gets enough of this mineral. In adults, the symptoms are less severe, but definitely present. Here are the most notable:
- Muscular weakness and physical fatigue.
- Hypothyroidism, which is exhibited through heart palpitations, moisture on skin, emotional issues, and sensitivity to light.
- Mental Fatigue.
- In woman, changes in menstrual cycle.
- In pregnant woman, miscarriage.
It is important to note, that a selenium overdose is very possible. If you have an overdose, it will have a toxic effect on the body. You may feel depressed or anxious, have nausea or may vomit, and possibly lose hair or get brittle nails, as well as have a strong breath odor.
Selenium Supplement Benefits
In order for your body to function properly, your body needs at least 200 micrograms (mcg) of selenium a day. Brazil nuts have 120 mcg, which is why it is a choice food for anyone needing to increase their selenium intake. An average male should take a supplement of 70 mcg, while women should take 55 mcg. Some studies suggest to take 600 mcg, although it can be problematic to take too much. A more conservative supplement amount is 100-200 mcg a day. If you choose to take a supplement higher than 200 mcg, then it is advisable to have your levels checked periodically to make sure you are within a healthy range.
Some benefits that you will find by taking this supplement are:
- Reduces your risk of cancer, especially if combined with Vitamin C and E.
- Improves your mood.
- Protects against free radicals that damage your DNA.
- Protects against heart disease and stroke by decreasing your risk of clotting.
- Decreases signs of aging.
- Maintains a healthy thyroid, which assures all your cells are properly functioning.
- Improves immune system, which will help prevent cold sores and shingles, as well as other viral infections.
- Slows progression of AIDS/HIV
- Increases male sexual potency.
- Helps have healthier hair and skin.
- Increases eye health, and possibly prevents cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Increases good cholesterol (HDL) and decreases bad cholesterol (LDL).
- Promotes normal liver functioning.
Selenium with Vitamin E
In combination with Vitamin E, selenium's benefits are enhanced, specifically the anti-inflammatory benefits. These anti-inflammatory benefits extend to improving rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and eczema. There have been studies that suggest that if a person is low in either selenium or vitamin E, it will turn a latent virus into an active one, such as cold sores, shingles, and inflammatory diseases.
They also both enhance the immune system, by combating against free radicals. Free radicals are what often cause cancer. Vitamin E is one of the cell's main defenses, which is why it is believed to decrease the cancer-causing free radicals. Unfortunately Vitamin E is not easily found in food. You would need to eat three pounds of lettuce to get enough. Fortunately, fortified cereals, nuts, sunflower seeds, turnip greens, tomato paste, vegetable oil, and avocados contain slightly more. Even with these foods, it is often recommended to supplement as well.
With health benefits, often come anti-aging benefits. These vitamins combined will add to your skin and hair health, by increasing the elasticity and collagen in your skin. Through better elasticity and more collagen, the progression of wrinkles will be decreased. These also help your acne.
There are so many great reasons to taking a selenium supplement, although it is important to be mindful of not taking too much. By combining this mineral with vitamin E and Vitamin C, enhances these great benefits, which is why it is so very important to make sure you have enough.
© 2012 Angela Michelle
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