The Health Benefits of Selenium and Selenium Supplements

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

What comes to your mind when you hear or see the word selenium or selenium supplements on store shelves? How about the periodic table that you learned back when you were in school, right? Does it make you wish you had paid more attention in chemistry class?

Well, selenium is a naturally occurring trace mineral found in soil. It was considered dangerous and even toxic for health until 1957, but then its health benefits were discovered, and now it is one of the most commonly used supplements around the world.

Brazil nuts contain selenium in the highest concentration. Apart from that, items like cereal, eggs, and fish all contain selenium in reasonable amounts. But you need to note that balanced consumption of selenium is crucial as both deficiency and excess can have adverse effects on the health. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of selenium for adults is 55 mcg per day.

Selenium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in keeping your mind and body healthy.

Let’s dive deeper into some of the health benefits of selenium.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition or disease. You should always consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your regimen to ensure you are healthy enough to do so and to ensure the supplements will not interact with any medications you may currently be taking.

The Health Benefits Associated with Selenium and Selenium Supplements

Below, you will find the many health benefits you can experience by consuming foods containing selenium or adding selenium supplements into your regimen.

1.     Contain Antioxidants Properties

Selenium contains antioxidant properties that help prevent cell damage caused by the free radicals. Though free radicals are important, excessive amounts can lead to oxidative stress and can damage healthy cells. As per studies, antioxidants like selenium keep a check and work by neutralizing the excess radicals and protecting the cells.

By reducing oxidative stress, it helps to protect the body from chronic conditions like cancer and heart diseases. This makes selenium an essential element for improving your overall health.

2.     Boost the Immune System

A strong immune system is vital for identifying and fighting threats like bacteria and viruses and improving overall health.

Selenium plays an important role in boosting the immune system. It helps to lower oxidative stress, which in turn reduces inflammation and enhances the immunity of the body.

Studies show that a selenium deficiency can slow down the body’s immune response. Plus, it can increase the risk of death. Another study shows that taking selenium supplements can strengthen the immune system of people with tuberculosis, influenza, and hepatitis C.

3.     Reduce Asthma Symptoms

As per studies, asthma is linked with increased oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Selenium helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which reduces the symptoms related to asthma.

A study shows that people with high levels of blood selenium tend to have better lung function as compared to those with lower levels.

Selenium supplements also work great. A study found that giving 200 mcg of selenium per day to people with asthma reduced the use of medicines they were taking to control the symptoms of asthma.

4.     Protect Against Heart Disease

A low level of selenium is linked to an increase in heart diseases. As per analysis, a 50% increase in selenium level can reduce the risk of heart disease by 24%.

Selenium helps reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which is the biggest risk factor for heart diseases. So, including selenium in your diet and through selenium supplements is a great way to improve your heart health.

5.     Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Studies show that selenium has the ability to reduce oxidative stress, boost immunity, and potentially destroy cancer cells. As per a review of 69 studies, a high blood level of selenium helps in lowering the risk of cancer, including breast, lungs, prostate, and colon. But according to the research, it is only when selenium is obtained through whole food options and not through selenium supplements.

However, selenium supplements can help reduce the side effects on people undergoing radiation therapy.

Dietary Sources of Selenium

Wondering which foods are high in selenium? Here are a few of them:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Oysters
  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Halibut
  • Chicken breast

Excessive Consumption of Selenium

Though selenium is important, high doses can prove to be fatal. The recommended dose for selenium is 55 mcg per day, and it should never exceed 400 mcg per day.

Toxicity is more likely to happen by consuming supplements rather than food rich in selenium. The signs of toxicity may include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, muscle soreness, etc. In severe cases, overconsumption may even lead to heart attack, kidney failure, and sometimes even death.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Selenium is important for the overall functioning of the body. However, make sure to consume it as per the recommended doses as both deficiency, and excess consumption can lead to adverse effects on health.

And be very cautious when consuming selenium supplements. It is better to consult a doctor and discuss the side effects and benefits of selenium supplements before you include them in your routine.