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How does selenium help keep my body healthy?

Selenium helps activate the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. The average American gets nearly twice the daily requirement of selenium. Selenium intakes marginally above the upper limit (400 micrograms per day) can cause selenosis, characterized by brittleness and loss of hair and nails. Significantly higher intakes can be fatal.

Bone and Joint Health
Selenium counters the inflammation associated with the progression of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A University of North Carolina study found that men and women with high dietary selenium intakes were 40 percent less likely to develop osteoarthritis in their knees than those with lower intakes of selenium. And in a Belgian study, 15 women with rheumatoid arthritis who increased selenium intake for four months experienced significant improvement in joint movement and strength.

Brain Health
Inadequate selenium can also take a toll on your brain. An Indiana University School of Medicine study looked at 2,000 men and women, age 65 and older, and found that those with the highest selenium intake had the cognitive ability of someone 10 years younger.

Cancer Prevention
A University of Arizona study of nearly 1,000 men found that those who took 200 micrograms of selenium developed 63 percent fewer cases of prostate cancer compared with a placebo control group. Selenium has also shown potential to reduce the risk of lung, liver and colorectal cancers. One study, however, found an increased risk of a type of skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) in people taking selenium supplements. Also, in preliminary findings from a double-blind study of people who took 200 micrograms of selenium per day for several years to prevent recurrences of skin cancer, the incidence of diabetes was higher in those who received selenium than in those who received a placebo.

Immune Function
Studies indicate that selenium deficiency may impair immune function. For example, a lack of dietary selenium can allow an otherwise harmless virus to undermine heart muscle, possibly explaining the prevalence of a cardiac ailment know as Keshan’s disease in rural areas of China, where local soils lack selenium content.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.