Selenium has many tasks to perform in the body. It helps to boost the immune system and fight off infection, providing a general increase in the body’s defense against dangerous bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. On a basic cellular level, every cell in the body needs a particular hormone from the thyroid gland that selenium helps to convert to an active form.
Perhaps the most famed use of selenium in supplement form is as an antioxidant; it helps to mop up dangerous molecules known as free radicals that can damage and alter healthy cells. It has also been recommended for staving off the effects of aging.
Specifically, Selenium May Help To:
- Prevent cancer. Test-tube studies indicate that in addition to fostering healthy cell growth and division, selenium discourages the formation of tumors. When researchers at Cornell University and the University of Arizona pooled results from 5-year studies designed to assess the effects of selenium supplements (200 mcg daily), they came up with some startling findings.
Compared with the rest of the population, participants had :
- 63% fewer prostate cancers
- 58% fewer colorectal tumors
- 46% fewer lung cancers.
- Overall, their death rate from cancer was 39% lower than the average.
Earlier studies had found that in people already diagnosed with cancer, those whose selenium levels were lowest developed more subsequent tumors than those whose selenium levels were highest. Individuals with low selenium levels also had a greater likelihood of cancer recurrence, were at higher risk of having the cancer spread to new organs, and generally survived shorter periods of time.
- Protect against heart attack and stroke. Selenium may decrease the “stickiness” of the blood, lessening its tendency to clot and thus reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, the mineral may encourage healthy heart function by increasing the proportion of HDL (“good”) cholesterol to LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. People who have already had a heart attack or a stroke, or who smoke, appear to benefit the most from selenium.
- Guard against cataracts and macular degeneration. Selenium may help prevent the two most common causes of impaired vision and blindness in older Americans–cataracts and macular degeneration–by providing antioxidant actions that fight free radicals. It’s these free radicals, after all, that often damage the eye’s lens (the site of cataracts) and the macula at the center of the eye’s retina (the site of macular degeneration).
- Promote healing of cold sores and shingles. When the herpes virus erupts from a dormant state in the body, painful cold sores and shingles may appear. Selenium, an immune-system booster, may help suppress this kind of eruption.
- Fight inflammation associated with lupus. Selenium’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions may be enhanced when combined with vitamin E. For people with lupus, an inflammatory autoimmune disease, this nutrient duo may foster healing of the skin and help protect the heart, blood vessels, skin, joints, and other parts of the body prone to inflammation. Along the same lines, the selenium/vitamin E combination may benefit people with other types of inflammatory disorders too, such as psoriasis, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis.
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