The third essential micro element in our row is selenium. It is well-known by many and today we will find an answer to the question “Does Selenium Help The Body? – The Inner Defender”. We will also get to know, how much you need of it, from where you can get it and what else might be interesting about this micro element.
Why can we call Selenium The Inner Defender?
Selenium plays a role in practically all organs throughout our body.
One of the most important functions of selenium in our body is its support of enzymes, which work against oxidative stress as they function as radical catchers.
Reactive oxygen species, which are one of the main causes of cell aging and therefore aging of the body, develop in metabolism processes within the mitochondrial energy generation. Simplified, the mitochondria are the power stations in our cells.
These reactive oxygen species ensure that fats, proteins and our DNA are damaged through oxidation. This can be prevented by the enzyme gluthationperoxidase, in which selenium plays a central role.
So now we know that selenium is essential in our body to prevent us from oxidative stress in nearly all areas of our body.
What is Selenium?
Selenium is a chalcogen (6th main group in the periodic table of elements) and comes in a stable, metal-like grey form. Selenium as a free element can be very toxic to us.
Selenium is an essential micro or trace element, which we have to get through our nutrition.
What is the demand of Selenium?
Depending on the age, health and lifestyle the daily demand for an average and healthy adult for selenium is about
55 micrograms (μg) per day. But until today the optimal dose is not known yet, so further research has to be done.
Where can you get Selenium from (Top foods)?
Here are the Top foods, which are rich in Selenium:
1. Coconut, para nut, or brazil nut (up to 1000 μg/100g),
2. Sunflower Seeds (up to 80 μg/100g)
3. Cheese, especially hard cheese (up to 60 μg/100g)
4. Mushrooms (up to 40 μg/100ml)
5. Brown rice (up to 10 μg/100ml)
Meat and fish are other good animal sources for selenium, which can be on our diet plan from time to time.
What are the functions and benefits of Selenium?
As we have seen above, selenium plays a significantly important role in protecting our body and therefore our immune system of oxidative stress, which leads to damage in the macro nutrients fat and protein and furthermore to damage in our genetic material, the DNA. The other essential functions of selenium in our body will be our topic in this paragraph.
The prevention of oxidative stress in our body is a result of the function of selenium in the protein metabolism. A prominent example is gluthationperoxidase, very chemically I know, but so important that it needs to be mentioned here. This enzyme is a participant in redox reactions so that it can be named as a radical catcher. You may ask what the role of selenium is in this case. Selenium comes in place in the amino acid selenocysteine, which is a central component of gluthationperoxidase and that is why selenium works as a base for our defense against oxidative stress.
Selenium is essential for the formation of immune cells like the T-cells, which are necessary for a good working immune system and immune defense.
Thyroid gland hormones and happiness hormones
Another important role of selenium is its effect in the iodine metabolism. Within this process, it is necessary to build thyroid gland hormones, such as the conversion of thyroxine into the more active form triiodothyronine.
Moreover, selenium is there to promote the formation of serotonin, which is a hormone that makes sure that we are able to be in a good mood.
Other important functions of selenium in our body
Selenium works as a detoxifier as it has the ability to bind heavy metals.
Furthermore, it helps to develop strong hair and nails and other parts of our body where keratin is at place.
Lastly, selenium is also necessary within the development of healthy, functioning sperm cells.
Transport and storage of selenium in our body
Selenium is transported through our body as it is bound to blood plasma proteins. Selenium is stored within selenomethionine.
What deficiency symptoms of Selenium exist?
Vegans and people with a one-sided diet, diarrhea or a maldigestion are at a higher risk of a selenium deficiency. There are certain specific selenium-deficiency diseases, namely the Keshan-disease, the Kashin-Beck-disease and neuropathy, which are also typically geographically limited. The Keshan-disease, mainly found in Siberia, Mongolia and China and neuropathy, mainly found in Cuba are a result of a virus mutation. Whereas the Keshan-disease causes heart muscle disorders, neuropathy causes disorders in the nerve system. The Kashin-Beck-disease results in an articular cartilage degeneration.
Other symptoms, also not directly linked to the described diseases above, caused by a lack of selenium can be as followed:
- dry/weak skin
- decreased male fertility
- disorders in the nerve system
- heart insufficiency
What overdose symptoms of Selenium exist?
An overdose of selenium through nutrition is rare, as it can be excreted through the urine. A supplementation of selenium is risky because the span to an overdose is very narrow. Then selenium can become strongly toxic to our body. A selenosis, with a garlic like breath, can occur with a selenium intake of 400 μg and above. Symptoms of an overdose of selenium can be:
- liver damage
- musculoskeletal disorders
- heart weakness
What else may you have to consider about Selenium?
Value in our body
The amount of selenium in our body is about 10 – 20 mg. About 60% of it can be found in the kidneys, the liver and the muscles. About 30 % can be found in the bones.
Antagonists and Advice
As selenium has the ability to support our immune system it may help to prevent colds or decrease the intensity of an existing cold. So it is good to have a higher amount of selenium in our nutrition during cold weather. For now, there is no evidence that a supplementation of selenium has a remarkable effect on our health.
Discovery and Use
Selenium was first discovered in 1818 by the Swedish chemist Berzelius.
The word “selenium” comes from the Greek word “selene”, which means moon.
So as we are closing the circle of the micro element selenium, we can admit that it is a very essential and important component for our body defense and immune system. It is a supporter against oxidative stress and promotes the formation of immune cells. It works in the thyroid gland metabolism and is good for the psyche. Nuts and seeds, mushrooms and rice are good sources of selenium in food.
Now to you. What do you think? What was interesting here or do you want to know something else about selenium? Let us know in the comments.