What is Selenium Used For?

Rahul Thadani Mar 12, 2019
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Selenium is a trace mineral, that is essential for the human body to survive, and its deficiency can lead to several undesired complications. However, most people are unaware about its uses in the human body. Here is an information on its sources, properties, uses, and the effects of this deficiency.
Selenium, is found in many different fruits and vegetables, and its main purpose in the human body is to act as an antioxidant. Many mineral supplements that are sold in drug stores and recommended by doctors, also carry a degree of the element in them.
This is because the presence of this element in the human body is vital and essential. Along with being an antioxidant, the element is also an agent that regulates our metabolism and the activities of the thyroid gland as well.

Foods Containing Selenium

It is commonly found in the soil, so people who reside in such areas and consume a lot of plant-based foods get the most amount of this element in their body. The consumption of meat and fish is also a good source.
Its most common food sources are as follows.
  • Asparagus
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Egg White
  • Clams
  • Fish
  • Lamb
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Spaghetti
  • Tuna
  • Wheat Bran
Generally, people living in areas where the soil is rich in the element have to deal with lesser medical cases of thyroid problems. However, its deficiency could cause serious damage.

Properties and Uses

Being an antioxidant, the first thing it does is that it boosts the immune system of the human body. Secondly, it combats the effects of free radicals in the body, and prevents them from carrying out unpredictable damage inside the body.
One is aware that oxygen is required by the body in order to survive but when it is burned inside the body, some entities known as free radicals are released. These free radicals can travel around the body causing havoc inside. In order to combat such materials, various antioxidants are essential.
Along with this the element also aids Glutathione, which is the primary antioxidant in the human body, in achieving its purpose without any problems. The activation of this particular enzyme is carried out by it, and this helps in protecting the body from free radicals and other effects of oxidative stress.
Experts claim that it's useful to fight off cardiovascular diseases and gives the body the ability to fight cancer. In a study, people with cancer were found to have low selenium levels, and experts claimed that people with higher levels are less prone to cancer. However, there's insufficient evidence to substantiate this and extensive research is required.
People who consume high levels of vitamin C have a better chance of absorbing the element in the body. Further, the consumption of a diet that is rich in fish, meat, and organ meats should generally ensure that its levels are maintained.
It is also believed that 70 mcg of this element being consumed on a daily basis should be enough to keep the body at a healthy level. If extremely high levels are consumed (say around 3000 mcg a day) then it could also result in cases of toxicity in the body.

Effects of the Deficiency

It has been observed that one's thyroid gland may slow down significantly with the deficiency, thus, one would need to take care of the condition. The kidneys and the liver are where the element is found the most in the body, thereby affecting the metabolism.
Hence, its deficiency may also result in a slow metabolic rate which would lead to tiredness, lethargy, and fatigue. Furthermore, research studies reveal that it controls cholesterol levels in the body.
There are three other major diseases that are related with its deficiency in the body, they are as follows.
  • Kashin-Beck Disease- This leads to osteoarthropathy in adults and children.
  • Keshan Disease- This afflicts children and leads to an enlarged heart and other complications.
  • Myxedematous Endemic Cretinism- A disorder that results in mental retardation.
For all these reasons, it is crucial that pregnant women and children get adequate amount of selenium in their diet. It is notable that men need this trace mineral more than women. Along with the aforementioned information, one should also know that the harmful effects of mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium can also be avoided with the help of this element.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.
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