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 Minerals: Selenium  

Selenium may also aid in protein synthesis, growth and development, and fertility, especially in the male. It has been shown to improve sperm production and motility. Thus, selenium may prevent male infertility; however, we do not know whether selenium deficiency will actually cause male infertility. These are only some of the conjectures about other selenium functions.

Uses: A growing number of clinically effective uses of selenium have been developed, and others are being tested for possible value. As part of nutritional antioxidant therapy with vitamin E, zinc, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, selenium, as selenomethionine (will form the active selenocysteine), may be beneficial in treating a variety of inflammatory problems and may be helpful in most acute or degenerative diseases to moderate the inflammatory process. Its use in treating arthritis and some autoimmune problems, such as lupus erythematosus or vasculitis, shows promise but needs further study. Selenium is known to help prevent cardiovascular disease and decrease the risk of complications such as strokes and heart attacks (possibly by reducing platelet aggregation) related to our number one disease process, atherosclerosis. This use, along with selenium's confirmed ability to reduce the incidence of certain cancers, makes this trace mineral quite important.

Where selenium is abundant in the soil or when it is added to the diet, it has an anticarcinogenic effect. These conditions are associated with both decreased cancer rates and decreased cancer mortality, especially regarding the number one female cancer, that of the breast, but also cancer of the colon/rectum, prostate, lung, ovary, bladder, pancreas, and skin. This is a wide range. In animal studies, 1-4 ppm of selenium added to the food or water is clearly associated with decreased cancer rates. High breast cancer rates are associated with areas of low soil selenium in the United States, and human epidemiological studies confirm these findings throughout the world.

Because of selenium's immunostimulating function, it's very useful in the treatment of many immunosuppression diseases. With its antioxidant properties, selenium, especially along with vitamin E, may become a routine and powerful nutritional of treatment in the medical world. Autoimmune diseases, recurrent illnesses or infections, and other inflammatory problems may be helped by restoring adequate selenium levels in the body. Selenium can help us prevent disease by increasing our resistance. In some cases, selenium promotes more rapid recovery from many basic disease processes. More controlled human studies related to specific illnesses will need to be done to generate greater acceptance by the medical establishment of selenium's important role.

Selenium's postulated antiaging effect offers another possible use of the mineral; this cell-membrane-protecting influence on improving tissue elasticity also needs further research. With vitamin E, selenium also appears to be helpful in treating acne. Selenium sulfide used topically seems to help in certain skin conditions, such as dandruff and dermatitis, and to improve skin health. It is also a helpful treatment for the mild skin fungus tinea versicolor.

There are even more exciting possibilities for selenium's use in heart diseases. One angina study showed reduced symptoms in nearly 100 percent of the patients when selenium was used in a dosage of 1 mg. per day with 200 IUs of vitamin E, whereas the placebo group reported little benefit. Selenium supplementation helps correct the serious symptoms of Keshan disease, a cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease with heart enlargement) associated with congestive heart failure and the resulting symptoms of body swelling, shortness of breath, and eventual circulatory collapse. This disease has been more prevalent in China, where it was first reported, but with our new knowledge, more cases are being found in other areas. It may simply be a disease of selenium deficiency. The antioxidant function of selenium likely decreases vascular clogging of inflamed artery linings by soothing irritation and binding free radicals; thus, selenium may play a role in reducing or preventing atherosclerosis at its initial biochemical level.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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