Selenium: Benefits, Sources, Deficiency

Selenium is a chemical element that doubles as a mineral and can be derived from the soil. Not only this, but it is also available naturally in water as well as in certain foods that are richer in the mineral. 

People tend to believe that since they need to consume only a small amount of selenium, it is not as important. However, this is not true – selenium is an important factor when considering metabolism.

Benefits of Selenium

For a mineral that has such a low intake amount, Selenium has many benefits to provide. Selenium’s importance is discussed primarily because of its antioxidant properties – a derivative of selenium in the body functions as an enzyme that is known to protect cells from getting damaged.

Some studies indicate that consumption of selenium leads to a lower risk of prostate and lung cancer – however, the converse of this is also true. Individuals who are selenium-deficient are at a higher risk of these cancers.

While further studies regarding selenium are inconclusive, some evidence obtained suggests that the risk of cardiovascular disease is lowered because of selenium. 

Apart from this, certain other studies indicate that selenium may eventually have a role to play in treating HIV/AIDS – this is because the mineral seems to reduce its progression.


Sources of Selenium

You must keep in mind that since processing tends to destroy the mineral, whole foods are usually preferred as a source of selenium. 

Sources of the mineral include saltwater fishes (like cod, red snapper, herring and tuna), crabs, lobster, beef, poultry, eggs, apart from vegetarian sources including nuts (such as Brazil nuts and walnuts), grains (i.e. certain kinds of cereals) and mushrooms.

Its versatility extends to the supplements – as it is available in many different forms, including being a component of multivitamin tablets.

Deficiencies of Selenium

Owing to the fact that Selenium is needed in only trace amounts by our body, instances of deficiency are rare – factoring in only when the individual’s regular intestinal function has been compromised, similar severe cases, and in the event that the individual is over 90 years of age. 

However, intake is not the only way a person is at risk – individuals whose food is grown on low-selenium soil are at a slightly higher risk of deficiency.

Deficiency in intake of selenium may lead to hair loss and discolouration of fingernails. Hair loss in instances where the onset is quick and evenly distributed is a sign of selenium deficiency, and in severe cases, it may affect body hair as well. 

It also leads to a prominent whitening of fingernail beds. Selenium is important for peroxidase, and with low production of this substance, the chances of contracting a cold and viral infection are increased. 

The lack of selenium leads to low immunity – which gives pathogens an easy means to target your body.

Selenium deficiency can also become a factor in lethargy, tiredness and weakness. Low selenium levels lead to reduced brain function and ability to concentrate.

Low selenium levels can lead to fertility issues such as menstrual problems and recurring miscarriages in women and low sperm motility in men. Chronic selenium deficiency can factor into hypothyroidism.

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