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7 Ways Selenium Benefits Your Body

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder
These fresh lima beans are a great source of selenium, an essential mineral with many benefits to your body.

Selenium is a trace element and mineral that is essential for human life.[1] It is critical to many of our basic physiological functions, including protecting cells from oxidative stress and helping the thyroid produce hormones. It is found in many selenium-rich fruits and vegetables and some animal products.

To say that selenium is important is an understatement. Low selenium levels are actually linked to conditions such as Keshan disease[2], heart disease[3], and infertility.[4]

Benefits of Selenium

Let’s look at what selenium means to your health.

1. Selenium Is A Powerful Antioxidant

[5] Antioxidants are substances that slow or prevent cell damage by neutralizing free radicals. Selenium works as a powerful antioxidant in the body, protecting against free radicals and oxidative stress. It’s an active immunomodulator and a more potent antioxidant than vitamins A, C, or E.[6]

Selenium combines with other proteins to create selenoproteins such as glutathione peroxidases and thioredoxin reductases. These proteins act as antioxidants to support health at the cellular level.[7]

2. Thyroid Support

The thyroid is a gland in the throat that produces hormones that affect growth and metabolic processes. Compared to other tissue in the human body, the thyroid contains the most selenium per gram.[8] Like iodine, selenium plays an important role in the synthesis of thyroid hormones.

Many studies have looked at selenium and thyroid disease, often with mixed or contradictory results. One study linked low selenium levels to thyroid issues in the elderly. Unfortunately, in that instance, selenium supplementation did little to help.[9] However, another study found that selenium supplementation promoted normal thyroid hormone levels and a normal response to inflammation in pregnant woman with hypothyroidism.[10]

Yet another study found selenium supplementation decreases the negative effects of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.[11] More research is needed to draw conclusions, but the potential of selenium as it relates to thyroid health is encouraging.

3. Anti-Aging Properties of Selenium

Free radical damage causes the cellular degeneration we know as aging.[12] As a powerful antioxidant, selenium neutralizes the damaging effects of free radicals. One study revealed that selenium levels decline with age and low selenium contributes to cognitive decline in older adults.[13, 14] There is great interest in determining whether selenium supplementation can slow age-related mental impairment.

4. Encourages Metal Detoxification

Metals are among the most toxic of pollutants. Effective ways to detoxify the body of toxic metals are few and far between. The good news? Data suggests that supplementing with organic (carbon-bound) selenium supports mercury excretion.[15]

5. Cardiovascular Support

It's clear that there is a relationship between selenium concentration and cardiovascular health. Some heart attack patients show low selenium levels[3] and incidences of heart failure caused by selenium deficiency have been reported since as early as 1937.[16]

Not only is selenium itself important for cardiovascular support, it works with other nutrients such as vitamin E and beta-carotene to help promote normal cholesterol levels.[17]

6. Reproductive Health

Selenium is critical for both male and female reproductive health. It enables sperm locomotion — and a selenium deficiency can lead to male infertility.[18] Studies have found that low selenium can also have a negative impact on female fertility and fetal growth.[4]

There seems to be a link between selenium deficiency and miscarriage, but more research is necessary to determine the exact mechanism.[19]

7. Selenium and Cancer

Studies have observed a trend in which lower concentrations of selenium correlated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer.[20, 21] Although this is an interesting tidbit of information, it shouldn't be interpreted as an implication that selenium is a treatment or method of prevention for cancer. While selenium has many benefits, there is not conclusive evidence to call it a viable treatment option.

Points to Remember

We do know that selenium is an essential mineral that’s crucial to many bodily functions. Natural sources, like fruits and vegetables, are the best way to incorporate selenium into your diet.

Selenium supplementation may also be appropriate for people who are experiencing a selenium deficiency.[4] If you're concerned that you're not getting enough selenium, talk to your nutritionist and see if selenium supplementation is right for you.

References (21)
  1. "Office of Dietary Supplements - Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
  2. Wu, Qian, Margaret P. Rayman, Hongjun Lv, Lutz Schomburg, Bo Cui, Chuqi Gao, Pu Chen, Guihua Zhuang, Zhenan Zhang, Xiaogang Peng, Hua Li, Yang Zhao, Xiaohong He, Gaoyuan Zeng, Fei Qin, Peng Hou, and Bingyin Shi. "Low Population Selenium Status Is Associated With Increased Prevalence of Thyroid Disease." The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 100.11 (2015): 4037-047. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  3. Oster, O., and W. Prellwitz. "Selenium and Cardiovascular Disease." Biological Trace Element Research Biol Trace Elem Res 24.2-3 (1990): 91-103. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  4. Mistry, Hiten D., Fiona Broughton Pipkin, Christopher W.g. Redman, and Lucilla Poston. "Selenium in Reproductive Health." American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 206.1 (2012): 21-30. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  5. Tinggi, Ujang. “Selenium: Its Role as Antioxidant in Human Health.” Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine 13.2 (2008): 102–108. PMC. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  6. Baraboĭ, VA, and EN Shestakova. "[Selenium: The Biological Role and Antioxidant Activity]." Ukr Biokhim Zh (1999) 76.1 (2004): 23-32. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  7. Bera, Soumen et al. “Does a Role for Selenium in DNA Damage Repair Explain Apparent Controversies in Its Use in Chemoprevention?” Mutagenesis 28.2 (2013): 127–134. PMC. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  8. Drutel, Anne, Françoise Archambeaud, and Philippe Caron. "Selenium and the Thyroid Gland: More Good News for Clinicians." Clin Endocrinol Clinical Endocrinology 78.2 (2013): 155-64. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  9. Rayman, MP, et al. "Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Selenium Supplementation on Thyroid Function in the Elderly in the United Kingdom." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87.2 (2008): 370-78. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  10. Negro, Roberto, Gabriele Greco, Tiziana Mangieri, Antonio Pezzarossa, Davide Dazzi, and Haslinda Hassan. "The Influence of Selenium Supplementation on Postpartum Thyroid Status in Pregnant Women with Thyroid Peroxidase Autoantibodies." The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 92.4 (2007): 1263-268. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  11. Mazokopakis, Elias E., John A. Papadakis, Maria G. Papadomanolaki, Antony G. Batistakis, Triantafillos G. Giannakopoulos, Eftichios E. Protopapadakis, and Emmanuel S. Ganotakis. "Effects of 12 Months Treatment with L-Selenomethionine on Serum Anti-TPO Levels in Patients with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis." Thyroid 17.7 (2007): 609-12. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  12. Fusco, Domenico et al. “Effects of Antioxidant Supplementation on the Aging Process.” Clinical Interventions in Aging 2.3 (2007): 377–387. Print.
  13. Shahar, A et al. “Plasma Selenium Is Positively Related to Performance in Neurological Tasks Assessing Coordination and Motor Speed.” Movement Disorders 25.12 (2010): 1909–1915. PMC. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  14. Akbaraly, N. Tasnime, Isabelle Hininger-Favier, Isabelle Carrire, Josiane Arnaud, Veronique Gourlet, Anne-Marie Roussel, and Claudine Berr. "Plasma Selenium Over Time and Cognitive Decline in the Elderly." Epidemiology 18.1 (2007): 52-58. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  15. Li, Yu-Feng, Zeqin Dong, Chunying Chen, Bai Li, Yuxi Gao, Liya Qu, Tianchen Wang, Xin Fu, Yuliang Zhao, and Zhifang Chai. "Organic Selenium Supplementation Increases Mercury Excretion and Decreases Oxidative Damage in Long-Term Mercury-Exposed Residents from Wanshan, China." Environmental Science & Technology Environ. Sci. Technol.46.20 (2012): 11313-1318. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  16. Saliba, W., R. El Fakih, and W. Shaheen. "Heart Failure Secondary to Selenium Deficiency, Reversible after Supplementation." International Journal of Cardiology 141.2 (2010): n. pag. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  17. "Selenium." University of Maryland Medical Center. University of Maryland, 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
  18. Rayman, Margaret P. "The Importance of Selenium to Human Health." Lancet 365.9225 (2000): 233-41. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  19. Al-Kunani, A.s., R. Knight, S.j. Haswell, J.w. Thompson, and S.w. Lindow. "The Selenium Status of Women with a History of Recurrent Miscarriage." British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 108.10 (2001): 1094-097. PubMed. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.
  20. "Office of Dietary Supplements - Selenium - Fact Sheet for Consumers." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
  21. Bera, Soumen et al. “Does a Role for Selenium in DNA Damage Repair Explain Apparent Controversies in Its Use in Chemoprevention?” Mutagenesis 28.2 (2013): 127–134. PMC. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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