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There is no doubt that selenium in excessive doses can be toxic to the body. But in the appropriate doses can be one of the most beneficial minerals to to our long term health and longevity. Selenium is an essential mineral found in minute amounts in the body. The nutrient is an important part of the antioxidant enzymes that protect cells against the effects of free radicals that are produced during normal oxygen metabolism. It works with vitamin E preventing damage to cell membranes.

The mineral has been found to play an important role in the promotion of normal body growth and fertility along side zinc. The mineral also appears to preserve elasticity of tissue by delaying oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is necessary for the production of prostaglandin, substances that affect blood pressure. A prostaglandin deficiency also results in a deficiency of other compounds necessary for keeping the arteries free from platelet aggregation which leads to hardening of the arteries. Selenium improves certain energy-producing cells, including those of the heart, by ensuring adequate oxygen supply.

For decades, the importance of selenium was unclear. Today, selenium is one of the most documented and widely studied trace element known. Numerous studies have shown its importance to the body.

Selenium pays a greater role in human health than first thought though as the research has been compiled it has been discovered that selenium plays a broad role in the on going health of the body. For example, a deficiency of selenium may lead to premature aging due to its ability preserve tissue elasticity. A defective selenium absorption mechanism can result in neuronal damage, a disease that accumulates pigment in nerve cells and is characterized by mental retardation, diminished vision, nerve disorders, and eventually death.

Selenium is essential for reproduction. Animal tests reveal that selenium-deficient rats produced immobile sperm and most of the sperm were broken near the tail. Other studies show that a selenium deficiency results in infertility. Low levels of selenium are linked with a higher risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory diseases, and other conditions associated with free radical damage, including premature ageing and cataract damage.

It has also been found to be an important element that protects against high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and hypertensive kidney damage. Selenium with vitamin E has been used successfully in reducing or eliminating recurrent angina attacks and increasing strength and vigour and improving electrocardiograms in heart patients. It has been used successfully in improving the condition of persons with cystic fibrosis. Muscular dystrophy patients respond positively to selenium and vitamin E. Research in the early 1970s has proved that selenium protects against radiation. It also binds to metals such lead, mercury, aluminium , cadmium, silver, and thallium, preventing their absorption in the body and aiding their excretion.


Selenium helps your body produce glutathione, your most potent defence against the oxidative stress of intense training. When you exert yourself for extended periods, you take in extra amounts of oxygen, increasing the risk of free radical activity in the body. Free radicals are unpaired electrons which can damage cellular DNA, delaying the recovery period between training bouts and leaving your body vulnerable to illness and accelerated ageing. Inner urban lifestyles put us at greater risk of free radical invasion via a combination of exhaust fumes, pollution, smoking, alcohol consumption and stress.


One the most exciting discoveries is the role selenium plays in the defending our bodies against cancer. The mineral has been shown to reduce cancer mortality by 50% over a ten year period. This was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Dec 25, 1996. In a study carried out by the Life Extension Foundation, it was found that a combination of beta-carotene and selenium reduced the incidence of lung cancer by 46%.

There are several hypotheses as to how selenium works, including :

Protection against free radicals
The effect selenium has on hormone and immune systems
Alterations to carcinogen metabolism
Inhibition of cancer-causing enzymes
Stimulation of apoptosis (Cancer cell death)

It was noted in a JAMA study that patients taking 200mcg of selenium per day had an increase of 67% in their plasma serum levels. This was compared with the placebo group whose level did not rise, but did not fall below a deficient level. This was in a sample of over 1,300 people aged 18 80 over a nine month period. These results are extraordinary as it shows that to decrease the risk of cancer, selenium levels must be elevated and normal levels are inadequate. Must we not then postulate that the level of plasma selenium considered normal should be re-evaluated?

In that study it was specifically found that supplementation of selenium reduced prostate cancer by 63%, colon-rectal cancer reduced  by 58% and lung cancer reduced by 46%. From these results it was found that there was an overall decrease of 37% in cancer incidents and there was a 50% reduction in mortality due to cancer. What I find fascinating is that up till recently, despite all the evidence supporting the benefits on this mineral, organizations such as the "Therapeutic Goods Authority" in Australia had classified this mineral as a toxic substance. Due to much pressure from the general public and alternative health industry the mineral was reclassified and now a maximum of 200 mcg can be included into supplements.

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