Selenium Benefits: From Sex Drive To Skunk Stink
They say every day is a school day and that was certainly the case when I first began delving into the numerous ways selenium benefits our bodies, all those years ago.
While for years we may have just glossed over its existence on the periodic table. Selenium is an essential mineral for human health.
You may associate selenium with Brazil nuts and cancer prevention - and rightly so!
Brazil nuts are incredibly high in selenium and just two per day ensures you meet the recommended daily selenium intake.
There’s also a growing body of research to support its role in cancer prevention and treatment. Yet, for human health, there’s far more to this mineral than meets they eye and here we will explore all of ways selenium benefits the body.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that scientists began to understand how vital this trace mineral is for our bodily antioxidant defence systems and ‘switching on’ thyroid hormones. Since then, further research has linked selenium to immune, cognitive and cardiovascular function, too.
Selenium is commonly used as an all round antioxidant, to repair damage caused by long term smoking, and in men, to help with healthy testosterone production.
For men deficient in selenium, eating just 3 to 4 Brazil nuts per day can produce a noticeable result in testosterone levels and sex drive in under a week. That is one fast-acting chemical.
Amusingly (or painfully), selenium has sulfur-like properties, and is one ingredient in the notorious scent of a skunk! Though no one in their right mind would suggest seeking skunk spray as a source of selenium.
The best dietary sources include shellfish, shrimp and seafood, Brazil nuts, meats, eggs and some grains, with Brazil nuts rocking in at number one!
However, the selenium in food is largely dependent on the soil (or waters) in which it’s grown, with widespread environmental deficiencies (due to poor soil quality, over-farming and intensive agriculture) diminishing the nutritional content.
The Mineral Miracle Of Selenium Benefits
What exactly does selenium do?
Selenium creates selenoproteins (like the amino acid selenocysteine) which act as enzymes, carrying out crucial functions in the human body.
Scientists are still trying to understand the precise functions of selenoproteins, but so far it’s clear that they play a role in:
Creating and recycling antioxidants like glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E, Co-Q10 and alpha lipoic acid
Activating thyroid hormones
Cell growth, signalling, repair and destruction (the good, cancer-preventing kind!)
Regulating inflammatory and immune responses
How Selenium Benefits The Body
It’s no surprise that a key mineral is so vitally important for our health, and the selenoproteins created by selenium are used for:
→ Cancer prevention and treatment
Selenium may reduce the risk of some cancers, specifically prostate, breast, lung and gastric. It’s thought that higher selenium levels protect against cancer by boosting antioxidant activity.
Selenium is needed for important antioxidants like glutathione to function, and unfortunately, deficiency is becoming more common as soil mineral content decreases.
It certainly makes sense scientifically speaking!
The ways in which selenium benefits cancer treatment have been investigated in a large number of studies: some show minimal connection between selenium and reduced cancer risk; others suggest that daily supplementation could cut overall cancer risk by approximately 40%.
This is great news for those of us taking Athletic Greens, not just for the selenium content, but for the fact that the vitamins A,C&E and Alpha Lipoic Acid in Athletic Greens can help make the antioxidants work even harder.
→ Thyroid function
Selenium is essential for converting T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 and rT3 (active thyroid hormones). Healthy thyroid function is essential as the thyroid gland regulates metabolism, growth, repair, energy levels, immune function and even digestive processes.
For this reason, selenium may help support a wide range of conditions via a positive effect on the thyroid. Selenium supplementation has been found to assist in cases of autoimmune thyroid disease, too, possibly due to immune-regulating and antioxidant effects.
Kelp also teams up with selenium in Athletic Greens to support and assist in these same functions.
→ Immune function
Immune cells need selenium to function, and low levels are linked to impaired immunity, infection and chronic inflammation.
Studies show that selenium supplementation reduces viral load in AIDS, with inflammatory immune conditions like asthma and colitis also responding positively to selenium therapy.
→ Supporting cardiovascular health
Low levels of selenium can lead to increased oxidative damage, as the body struggles to produce enough antioxidants to counteract the effects of cellular respiration i.e living and breathing, which you’ll agree is kind of a big deal!
Along with selenium, grapeseed extract and the CoQ10 found in Athletic Greens also work hard for your overall cardiovascular health.
In fact, Keshan disease, involving a fatal enlargement of the heart, is strongly linked to selenium deficiency.
Damage to blood vessels due to increased oxidation plays a major role in heart disease, as does inflammation, which selenium may also help reduce. Further evidence is still required to support the value of selenium supplementation for treating cardiovascular disease.
→ Preventing cognitive decline
Decreasing selenium levels have been linked to cognitive decline in the elderly, though it’s unclear whether supplementation can help treat or prevent this. Thanks to selenium’s vital role in our antioxidant systems, it’s likely that it protects brain tissue (largely composed of fat) from oxidation and damage.
→ Treating mercury toxicity
Selenium has been consistently found to counteract mercury, with higher levels preventing toxicity. Interestingly, this is one reason to still enjoy seafood, despite mercury fears! The high selenium content available from seafood may help balance any mercury present.
→ As an antioxidant
Many of the ways selenium benefits us are thanks to its role as an antioxidant, protecting DNA, cell membranes, blood vessels and all manner of delicate tissues from the effects of oxidation. Increased antioxidant activity supports everything from healthy ageing, better skin, and improved organ function to reduced risk of chronic disease.
Welcoming Selenium Into Our Diet
Selenium is generally considered safe and side-effect free at the recommended daily dosage, which ranges between 50 - 200 micrograms, with the upper daily intake set at 400 micrograms.
Extremely high doses may cause nausea, organ dysfunction and death. Selenium is cautioned for people with diabetes, undergoing cancer treatment or with aggressive prostate cancer.
As it has such a marked effect on the thyroid, those with thyroid disease should check with their healthcare provider before supplementing.
It goes without saying that you don’t need to go overboard in order to get each and every one of the selenium benefits.
Some studies remain inconclusive (but optimistic) about selenium’s role in cancer treatment and prevention. However, there is a recent study suggesting that increasing selenium intake would help the general population to strengthen their immune system, as well as reduce the rates of cancer in the world.
It seems a very small gesture for your continuing health to provide your body with its daily dose of selenium. And fortunately, you can get all of selenium’s benefits by keeping up your daily intake of Athletic Greens.