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selenium supplementSelenium Fast Facts

Foods: Brazil nuts, red meat, white meat turkey & chicken, tuna, cod, eggs, oatmeal

Nutritional & health benefits: antioxidant properties suggest its use in overall immune system protection

Selenium, which is known as Se on the periodic table, is a trace mineral that is essential for human health. Selenium plays many different roles in the body, but perhaps one of the most important is that of antioxidant.

Antioxidants such as selenium eliminate free radicals, which are unstable molecules in the body. Free radicals can contribute to a number of ailments such as cancer and heart disease, and are even partially responsible for the body's aging process. Taking antioxidants like selenium can counteract the damage that free radicals do.

In fact, geographical studies have found that areas of the world with low selenium concentrations in the soil and the diet of the people living there corresponds to an increased risk of developing cancer. Two different studies were also conducted where researchers gave selenium enriched table salt to test subjects. One test in China showed a 35% reduction in the rate of liver cancer, while the other in the United States showed a 49% reduction in the rate of prostate cancer.

Researchers are also very interested in the relationship between selenium and HIV. One of the most accurate indicators of the progression of HIV is the selenium levels of those who are infected. As HIV progresses, selenium levels go down.

Several studies have been done where selenium supplements were given to those infected with HIV, and the results have been extremely positive. Selenium supplementation seems to slow down the rate at which HIV progresses, and provides a variety of health benefits for those who have HIV.

A word of caution regarding selenium supplementation: one study of the relationship between selenium and type 2 diabetes showed that selenium increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is only one study, which has not been replicated, but it is still worth considering when considering whether or not to take selenium supplements, especially in high doses.

More information about selenium around the Web:

Selenium, Linus Pauling Institute's Micronutrient Information Center
- An overview, information on related selenoproteins, nutrient interactions, the results of deficiency suggesting its use in fighting cancer, HIV/AIDS and heart disease, recommended dietary allowance, food sources and supplements, drug interactions, references.

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Selenium in diet - Its role as an antioxidant and aid to men's infertility, good food sources, side effects and recommended daily allowances.


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