Selenium is a trace element that is found naturally in the environment. It is absorbed by plants from the soil and then passed on to animals and humans who consume them. Selenium can also be found in certain foods processed with selenium-enriched yeast.
Selenium is important because it plays a role in various body processes, including metabolism, reproduction, and detoxification. Selenium is also necessary for the proper function of the immune system. In addition, some studies have shown that selenium may help protect against cancer.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for selenium varies depending on age and gender but ranges from 20 to 55 micrograms per day. The best way to get the right amount of selenium is through a balanced diet that includes foods such as Brazil nuts, fish, poultry, beef, grains, and eggs.
However, it is also possible to get too much selenium, which can lead to health problems such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and nervous system disorders. For people concerned that they are not getting enough selenium or are at risk for toxicity, talk to a doctor or registered dietitian about supplementation.
Besides naturally occurring in the soil, selenium can be found in some foods like Brazil nuts, eggs, and tuna. Selenium has many benefits for the human body, especially since it serves as an antioxidant. Selenium may lower inflammation markers and ease oxidative stress, a condition in which free radicals and antioxidants are unbalanced in the body, leading to cellular damage.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and a cell’s ability to readily detoxify the byproducts of ROS or eliminate damaged molecules produced by ROS. This situation creates a redox imbalance in cells and proposes a challenge to maintain normal cellular function. When ROS levels become too high, they can cause damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA. This cellular damage leads to inflammation and disease.
Selenium is essential because it helps produce glutathione peroxidases (GPx), enzymes that play an important role in preventing cellular damage. GPx enzymes scavenge for ROS molecules and help repair any cellular damage that ROS may have caused. Selenium works to ease oxidative stress by helping to remove ROS from cells and repair any damage that ROS may have caused.