While required in very low quantities, selenium is critical for managing proper metabolic functions in the body.
Naturally present in various foods, the quantity that you consume is governed by the soil and natural conditions in the area that you live in.
Key Role of Selenium in Body Functions
Since the level of selenium required to prevent health issues is extremely low, selenium deficiencies in the United States is almost unheard of.
However, it is important to know that this mineral is required for some critical functions of the body.
Here are some of them:
- Annihilation of free radicals – When oxidation takes place in the body to produce energy, there are some free radicals that are produced in the process. Oxidative stress can cause a fair amount of damage to the body. The body produces about eight glutathione peroxidase enzymes that are responsible for combating this oxidative stress. Selenium is required to process 5 out of 8 of these enzymes. Additional antioxidant protection is also added when selenium helps in recycling vitamin C.
- Maintaining proper thyroid function – Selenium, along with iodine, is responsible for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Low selenium diet can cause issues in thyroid function leading to various kind of issues. Selenium is part of the enzyme that helps in converting T4 into T3, the more active hormone.
How Much Selenium Should You Consume?
The recommended daily intake of selenium is as low as 55 mcg per day for adults and children above the age of 14 years. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are required to consume slightly higher levels. At an average Americans consume about 106 mcg per day.
This is why selenium deficiency is uncommon in the country except for specific cases that are not related to dietary habit or intake.
People who have undergone bowel surgeries, weight loss surgeries and those who have malabsorption issues may have low levels of selenium.
Selenium has been used in some studies to understand the role it plays in prostate cancer prevention. In this study, subjects were made to take 200 mcg per day. An upper limit of 400 mcg per day has been set and anything above this level can prove to be dangerous.
Sources of Selenium
Good natural sources of selenium include nuts like Brazil nuts and walnuts, freshwater and salt water fish like tuna, red snapper, cod and herring and various whole grains. It is best to consume these whole or with minimal cooking since more complicated cooking procedures destroys this mineral.
It is also pertinent that you understand some risks if you plan to increase selenium intake. Overdose of selenium can cause fever, nausea, bad breath and liver failures. It interacts with other medicines like antacids, statin drugs, birth control pills and corticosteroids as well.