We can understand if, when someone mentions selenium to you, the only thing that comes to mind is a vague memory of it having been in the periodic table you were taught at school. It turns out, however, that this essential mineral is by no means only distantly relevant to our health.
Selenium is a trace mineral, which means you don’t need much of it in your body to maintain optimum health. Nonetheless, the role that it doesplay in keeping you healthy is vital, touching on various important bodily processes, such as cognitive function, metabolism and even fertility.
While selenium supplements exist, this mineral also has many dietary sources, such as Brazil nuts, oysters, eggs, beef and grains. Let’s cut to the quick, though; what specific benefits could selenium bring to your health, as evidenced through science?
A stronger immune system
Given our own status as providers of immune support drinks here at Tonic Health, we’re naturally interested in how to improve the immune system through the intake of minerals like this one.
Sure enough, selenium is believed to play a key role in immune health, not least due to its antioxidant effects, which we’ll cover in more detail throughout the other points in this article. But basically, antioxidants like selenium are associated with reduced oxidative stress in the body – which in turn, helps to lessen inflammation and support immunity.
It serves as a potent antioxidant
The compounds known as antioxidants are important to health for reasons other than how they can help strengthen your immune system. After all, higher levels of oxidative stress are linked to such conditions as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
With oxidative stress being caused by an excess of free radicals in the body, antioxidants such as selenium help to keep in check your free radical levels, to lessen your risk of the aforementioned diseases.
It helps prevent cognitive decline
Yes, you’re probably already a little weary about us going on and on about oxidative stress by now. But as we touched on above, it is thought to play a part in both the onset and progression of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
It’s interesting, then, that research has indicated that the Mediterranean diet – which places a big emphasis on foods rich in selenium, such as nuts and seafood – is linked to a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Studies have also found signs of lower blood levels of selenium in Alzheimer’s patients.
Improved thyroid function
The fact that there’s more selenium in thyroid tissue than in any other human organ should tell you something about the influential role this mineral plays in keeping your thyroid gland working well. And it’s imperative that your thyroid gland doeswork well for such aspects of your health as your metabolism, growth and development.
Past research has found an association between selenium deficiency and thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which involves the immune system attacking the thyroid gland. By contrast, a healthy selenium intake could help to shield your thyroid from oxidative damage and aid in the production of thyroid hormone.
A possibly decreased cancer risk
Did you know that a 2016 review of 69 studies concluded that a high blood level of selenium could be linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers, such as breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer?
It’s important to underline that research into selenium’s impact on cancer risk hasn’t always been very conclusive so far. However, the idea that taking selenium might lower your risk of some types of cancer makes a certain amount of sense, given the mineral’s reputation for helping to minimise oxidative stress and DNA damage, while killing cancer cells.
Studies have indicated that selenium could be a factor in both male and female fertility, helping to improve semen quality at the same time as lowering the risk of miscarriage. A study in 2019 also found that the mineral might play a role in the health of the follicular fluid surrounding women’s eggs.
Better cardiovascular health
One thing you don’t want to happen is plaque accumulating in your arteries, a process known as atherosclerosis. This is thought to be likelier to occur when oxidative stress and inflammation are present – and you’ll already know a bit from this article about how selenium could be instrumental in tackling the first of those.
As for inflammation, a review of 16 controlled studies – involving more than 400,000 people with heart disease – has previously found that taking selenium supplements could help to reduce levels of the inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein (CRP). Higher blood selenium levels are associated with a lower general risk of heart disease, too.
So, there you go – selenium may be a trace mineral, but it seemingly has much more than a ‘trace’ effect on our all-round health and wellbeing. It could therefore be well worth you investigating how you could add more of this wonderful nutrient to your own diet – whether from food, supplements or both – in the months and years ahead.
If the benefits of selenium are something you'd like to experience for yourself, why not try one of our new Daily Immunity effervescent drinks? It contains 100ug of selenium as well as 1500ug of vitamin A, 1000mg vitamin C, 25ug vitamin D3, 12mg vitamin E, 10mg zinc, 50mg L-glutathione, 100mg N-acetyl cysteine, 10mg lipoic acid, 150mg reishi mushroom extract, and 150mg aged garlic powder - so 11 incredible vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in one tasty drink!