The Benefits Of Selenium + Dosage Recommendations

The Benefits Of Selenium + Dosage Recommendations

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When it comes to vital minerals, there seems to be less focus on selenium than some of the others, but selenium has lots of benefits and roles. For example, it helps increase immune function, defends against free radical damage with its antioxidant activity, and plays a role in helping maintain healthy metabolism. Some studies show promising antiviral effects and fertility support as well.


Selenium: What Is It?

A trace mineral found in soil, water, and certain foods, selenium plays a key role in antioxidant activity and tissue repair.  Studies show that it can also help enhance disease resistance and combat the effects of stress.

Photo: pxhere

Benefits Of Selenium

Recent research supports evidence that selenium can play a role in combating viral development, especially in patients with HIV.

Along the same lines of immune boosting, supplementation with high doses of selenium has been shown to have potential anticancer effects—specifically liver, lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers. In addition to possibly decreasing cancer risk, selenium may be able to slow down existing tumor and cancer growth by protecting cellular DNA.

Because it acts as an antioxidant, selenium offers the benefit of fighting aging and immune system degradation due to free radical damage and oxidative stress. It works in concert with vitamin E, helping to protect lipids (fats) in cell membranes and maintain cellular integrity and structure.

Selenium can increase blood flow and is required for proper sperm motility. It may also affect the function and behavior of the sperm as they move toward the egg. Some studies show that high concentrations of selenium in sperm can have a negative effect on overall sperm count, however.

Because it can help improve blood flow and decrease oxidative damage, it’s thought that selenium can thus reduce the risk of heart disease.

Selenium’s immune boosting and antioxidant effects may help improve longevity by decreasing the risk and severity of certain conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, and thyroid disorders, as we age, contributing to a possible increase in life expectancy.

Some recent research shows a possible link between selenium deficiency and thyroid metabolism issues. Selenium supplementation has been shown to help regulate the production of reactive oxygen within the thyroid gland, as well as protect it from antibodies that cause thyroid disease.

Some studies have shown that selenium supplementation helps decrease asthma-related symptoms. While more research is needed on this topic, early results are very promising.

Photo: St. John

Selenium Deficiency

Because selenium is found primarily in water and soil, deficiencies are very rare, as it is usually readily consumed through food and drinking water. Causes of deficiency can come from several sources:

  • Mineral depletion of soil. Certain parts of the U.S., U.K., Europe, and Africa have been shown to have decreased concentrations of selenium in their growing soil, thus transferring less of the mineral to the foods grown in these regions.
  • Lack of consumption of selenium-rich foods.
  • Living with HIV and undergoing kidney dialysis.
  • Suffering from a chronic bone disorder called Kashin-Beck disease.

Deficiency symptoms include muscle weakness, fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, thyroid dysfunction, and reproduction issues.

Photo: Pixabay/M W

Selenium Dosage And Supplementation Recommendations

The recommend daily allowance (RDA) for adults is 55 micrograms/day. This is good because the average daily intake in most Americans is believed to be 125 micrograms/day. The bad part of this is that the body is able to flush out selenium stores rather quickly, so it’s important to consume it regularly.

Exact recommendations for selenium are based on age:

  • Children 1–3: 20 micrograms/day
  • Children 4–8: 30 micrograms/day
  • Children 9–13: 40 micrograms/day
  • Adults and children 14 and up: 55 micrograms/day
  • Pregnant women: 60 micrograms/day
  • Breastfeeding women: 70 micrograms/day

The upper limit of daily consumption is 400 micrograms/day for adults in order to avoid any negative side effects.

Photo: Pexels/Polina Tankilevitch

Side Effects And Risks

Selenium toxicity can cause several negative reactions, such as fever, nausea, bad breath, potential liver complications, and possible kidney and heart problems (although these only occur at extremely high levels of selenium “poisoning”). These extreme levels can also lead to complications like respiratory (lung) depression and heart attack.

There is also evidence to suggest that selenium supplementation may interact negatively with other supplements and medications, such as niacin, birth control pills, statins (cholesterol-lowering medications), antacids, corticosteroids, and chemotherapy drugs.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Lior Golgher

Selenium-Rich Foods

The food richest in selenium is Brazil nuts. One nut contains more than 100% of the RDA—approximately 68-91 micrograms.

Other foods that are high in selenium are:

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Sardines
  • Halibut
  • Grass-fed beef and beef liver
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Navy beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Oats

TL;DR Summary

  • Selenium is a trace mineral found in soil and water.
  • Its strong antioxidant activity helps with many bodily functions and processes.
  • Best sources are foods that are rich in selenium, or supplementation.
  • Benefits include boosting immunity, defending against heart disease and cancer by defending against oxidative stress, regulating thyroid function, boosting fertility, decreasing asthma symptoms, and increasing longevity.
  • The RDA for adults is 55 micrograms/day.
  • Can be harmful or toxic in doses over 400 micrograms/day.