Selenium is a trace mineral that plays a crucial role in various physiological functions in the body. It is required in small amounts but is essential to human health. Selenium can be found in many foods such as seafood, meat, grains, and nuts. Here are some of the key things you should know about selenium:
Health Benefits of Selenium:
Antioxidant properties: Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals can contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Thyroid function: Selenium is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism and energy levels in the body. A deficiency in selenium can lead to thyroid dysfunction and hypothyroidism.
Immune system support: Selenium plays a vital role in the functioning of the immune system. It supports the production of white blood cells and other immune system components, protecting against infections and diseases.
Cognitive function: Some studies suggest that selenium may play a role in cognitive function and may help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
Sources of Selenium:
Selenium can be found in many foods, including seafood, meat, poultry, grains, nuts, and dairy products. Brazil nuts are a particularly good source of selenium, with just one nut containing more than the daily recommended intake. Other good sources of selenium include tuna, shrimp, chicken, and brown rice.
Selenium deficiency is rare in developed countries, but it can occur in people who have certain medical conditions or follow a very restricted diet. Symptoms of selenium deficiency can include fatigue, muscle weakness, and cognitive impairment. Severe selenium deficiency can lead to a condition known as Keshan disease, which is a type of heart disease that is more common in areas with low selenium levels in the soil.
While selenium is essential to human health, high doses of selenium can be toxic. The safe upper limit for selenium intake is 400 micrograms per day for adults, but this may be lower for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Symptoms of selenium toxicity can include hair loss, nail brittleness, skin rashes, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Selenium supplements are available, but they should only be taken under medical supervision. It is important not to exceed the safe upper limit for selenium intake, as high doses can be toxic. Selenium supplements can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners and medications used to treat high blood pressure.
In conclusion, selenium is an essential mineral that is required for several physiological functions in the body. It has several health benefits, including antioxidant properties, thyroid function, immune system support, and cognitive function. Selenium can be found in many foods, but supplements are available for people who are unable to meet their selenium needs through diet alone. However, it is important to use selenium supplements only under medical supervision and to be aware of the risks associated with excessive selenium intake.