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Selenium Supplements and Longevity

Updated on August 2, 2017
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Angela, a lover of food, wants to keep her family healthy, but prefers simple recipes with little work.

Mushrooms, egg yolks, poultry, kidney, onions, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, and whole grains are just a few foods that contain selenium naturally.
Mushrooms, egg yolks, poultry, kidney, onions, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, and whole grains are just a few foods that contain selenium naturally. | Source

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.

Should We Use Supplements?

Do you believe we should be using a supplement, to get the vitamins we are missing in our diets?

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Brazil Nuts

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One Brazil nut is full of selenium. This is a single Brazil nut.
One Brazil nut is full of selenium.
One Brazil nut is full of selenium. | Source
This is a single Brazil nut.
This is a single Brazil nut. | Source

Selenium Deficiency

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.

Volcanic Ash

Volcanic ash in the soil causes it to be high in selenium.
Volcanic ash in the soil causes it to be high in selenium. | Source

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.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E and selenium work together to be a great anti-oxidant and believed to improve cancer.
Vitamin E and selenium work together to be a great anti-oxidant and believed to improve cancer. | Source

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 Schultz


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    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      This is very interesting and useful. I brazil nuts had some minerals that were good for us, but had forgotten it was selenium. The information that you can overdose on selenium is new to me, and very useful.

      Great hub, voted up.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      Very interesting. I'm glad you gave details, too, regarding how much selenium is good as a daily intake amount. Voting up and useful.

    • Neil Sperling profile image

      Neil Sperling 5 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

      Great stuff - Thanks

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great information. I knew that selenium was a good supplement, but didn't know how much to take. Glad to hear about what veggies contain the most selenium. Voted up and useful! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Interesting fact about the volcanic ash enriching the soil with selenium. Another great hub post. Voted up!

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 5 years ago from Scotland

      Great information on a lesser known supplement that has many benefits to health .....jimmy

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      Thank you all very much!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      Always good to learn new information. Thanks for sharing all this.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Anything that improves my mood has to be a MUST. Voting useful and Up. Nice Hub.

    • jennyjenny profile image

      jennyjenny 5 years ago from Somewhere in Michigan

      Nice job on this one! Selenium is not widely recognized like other supplements are. Thanks for sharing!