March 16, 2012

Selenium Supplements May Harm Not Help

Where you live makes a world of difference in your need to take selenium supplements. If you are short of selenium, then your doctor should be able to tell you to take selenium supplements. If you live in Canada, the USA, Japan, and Venezuela, you should be careful about taking selenium supplements. If you live in Europe, you may need to consider adding selenium supplements to your program.

Before you put a lot of confidence in many of the studies claiming certain health benefits, please understand that many of these benefits can happen for people that have low selenium blood levels. When people have normal selenium blood levels (above 122 µg/L - micrograms per liter) unimpressive results were obtained. American men average 134 µg/L.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) has determined the upper limit to be 400 micrograms per day. Too much selenium can cause a condition called selenosis, which includes symptoms such as gastrointestinal upset, hair loss, white blotchy nails, garlic breath odor, fatigue, irritability, and mild nerve damage.

It is good to know that selenium has a low therapeutic range and when too much is consumed, the result may be the development of type 2 diabetes. Since I have type 2 diabetes, I do not have this concern, but I still try not to take more than a maintenance level of selenium.

In countries that are generally low in selenium for the population, low selenium intake has been linked to memory and brain decline, low immune system quality, and higher risk of death. From studies, these people may also benefit from added intake of selenium to protect themselves from certain cancers, increase male fertility, and increase antiviral solutions.

Researchers emphasize that because evidence from studies are mixed in benefits that people in countries with low natural selenium be more concerned about their levels than in North America. 

Read the two reports here and here.

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