Selenium is the trace and essential mineral of the body. It is required in the body in small amount but performs functions bigger than its amount.
Its dietary sources are both from plants and animals;
- Plant Sources: These include Brazil nuts, cereals mushrooms, brown rice, garlic and whole wheat bread.
- Animal sources: These include liver, fish such as salmon fish, shrimp, meat, beef, kidney and brewer’s yeast along with milk, egg, and poultry.
- Selenium is a part of the Schwarz’s factor 3, which like vitamin E is very important for the body and gives protection against hepatic necrosis. Both of these are important for each other since they both tend to increase and enhance the functions of each other.
- It is very effective in that it will exert its beneficial effect when it is present as 2 parts per 1,000,000,000 of the diet.
- Selenium has been found to possess antioxidant properties as it is an integral component of glutathione peroxidase. This enzyme is essential in catalyzing reactions that are necessary for the removal of toxic peroxides. This enzyme is also an important part of the immunity system. It is also involved in the coagulation system of blood.
- It is effective against osteoporosis
- It is seen to regulate the level of serum cholesterol.
- In the experimental animal, selenium has found to give protection against several carcinogens, chemical as well as viral.
- It also binds cadmium, mercury, and other metals and thus gives protection against their toxic effects.
- Selenium administered in the children suffering from kwashiorkor results in significant weight increase.
- Selenium supplements are now available and are used in treating growth-related problems as well as anemia.
After absorption selenium interacts with the sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine and methionine and forms the enzyme glutathione peroxidase and then incorporates into many proteins, such as myoglobin and hemoglobin. Good absorption is dependent on the dietary selenium to sulfur ratio.
- Clinically its deficiency produces Keshan diseases, a disease which was once endemic in Keshan the province of china where selenium might be deficient in the soil of china. The clinical findings in this disease are found to be arrhythmias and cardiogenic shock, as well as peripheral myopathies, may also be seen. Children and women of child-bearing age are particularly susceptible to this disease.
- If selenium is not in an inadequate amount, antioxidation will not take place and chances of premature aging may increase.
- Poisoning of metals can occur due to lack of it in the body.
- Skin and hair growth will be affected due to its deficiency.
- Immunity will be affected since there may be decreased production of white blood cells take place as a result of its deficiency.
Selenium toxicity can occur after ingestion of water containing a large amount of the metal. If its levels are high, it is excreted in the urine. The clinical finding is de-pigmentation of skin, hair loss, weariness, abnormal nails, a garlic-like odor from the breath even without garlic ingestion are the signs or the indication toxicity of selenium.
Amna Sheikh is a medical doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelors in Economics and Statistics. She is also a medical writer working as a freelancer for 10+ years and she is specialized in medical, health, and pharmaceutical writing, regulatory writing & clinical research. All her work is supported by a strong academic and professional experience.