NEWSLETTER 9 : SELENIUM                                                                                            (Updated August 2008)


Selenium is a trace element widely and irregularly distributed in the environment.

Its availability and content in food may vary significantly depending on the region.
Selenium occurs in animal and vegetal foods.

The essentiality of selenium in human nutrition was derived from its anti oxidative action, as a part of the glutathione-peroxidase system (GPx). A deficit in selenium will result in a decrease of the GPx activity, and therefore, in an increase of cell damage which cannot be counter-balanced by other anti oxidative systems. Selenium is our main defense against oxidants. However the implications of selenium involve much more than only the enzyme Glutathione Peroxidase. Selenium helps in the prevention of cancer, is essential for thyroid hormone utilization and is our best protection against viral infections and Candida albicans overgrowth.


Numerous studies have been published documenting the preventive effect

of a supplementation with selenium in cancer.

- In a 56 years study involving about 30,000 persons a selenium supplementation resulted in a 13 percent reduction in cancer mortality.

- In another study with more than 100,000 participants, selenium supplementation resulted in 35.1 percent less precancerous lesions.

- In a recent double-blind trial, selenium supplementation reduced prostate cancer incidence by 63 percent.

- Selenium blood levels are lower in patients with stomach, colon or rectum cancer.

- The National Cancer Institute recognizes the power of selenium to prevent lung, colorectal, and prostate cancer.

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A selenium deficiency may results in thyroid hormone utilization defect

A selenium deficiency triggers hypothyroidism because four selenium atoms are essential parts of each of the deiodases enzymes, that activate thyroid hormone. More specifically, the thyroid gland produces two thyroid hormones: tetraiodothyronine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 is less active than T3. To become active T4 has to be changed into T3 by the deiodase enzymes that--the name says it all--remove one atom of iodine from T4, a four iodine atoms molecule, making a T3, a three iodine atoms molecule out of it.
This enzymatic reaction do not occurs in the thyroid gland, it occurs mainly in the liver and to a lesser extend in almost all organs, brain included.


Selenium is part of the genoma of many viruses

The scientific breakthrough came in 1984 and is the work of Dr. Will Taylor, Professor at the university of Georgia. According Dr. Taylor, almost all viruses have a gene that restricts viral replication, is 80% similar to human GPx (see above) and like the human GPx, is selenium dependent. As a consequence a selenium deficiency in the host (the infected person) stimulates viral replication and selenium supplementation slows it down. The viruses involved are among others;

The virus of Molluscum contagiosum

The hepatitis B virus

The Keshan disease virus

The Herpes virus

The HIV virus

The Ebola virus

The Hemorrhagic fever virus

The common flu virus

The bird flu virus

The Coxsackie virus.

Read an interview of Dr. Taylor by Richard A. Passwater, Ph. D.


Selenium deficiency favors yeast overgrowth

Candida Albicans (CA) is a omnipresent fungus that enters and colonizes newborn infants during or soon after birth. This may be evidenced clinically as oral thrust, but in the vast majority of cases it escapes clinical detection. In a study of 140 full term normal babies positive oral culture was found in 5,7% of the babies at day of birth, by four weeks this % had increased to 82%.  At 6 months 90% of the babies have developed a positive delayed skin test and humoral antibodies, indicating the participation as well of cellular as of humoral immunity (As well of the T cells as of the B cells).

During subsequent years the ebb and flows of the parasite/host struggle is evidenced by the fluctuating level of humoral antibodies and the alternating pattern of positive and negative cultures of the mucosal surfaces. As long as the host succeeds in maintaining the parasite quiet, there is no real problem.

The picture changes with possible CA overgrowth, a condition favored by antibiotic use and above all by the hyperglycemia resulting from sugar and starch excess in the diet.

The variety and complexity of the complaints and symptoms related to a CA overgrowth stems from the fact that CA overgrowth reduces thyroid and adrenal hormone utilization and maintains intestinal malabsorption. Candida albicans also contains up to seventy-seven antigen proteins, that may trigger an overactivation of the immune system (allergy) with a sustained inflammation and all its consequences. 

CA overgrowth should be suspected in people presenting one or more than one of the following complaints and symptoms: Fatigue or lethargy, feeling of being drained, depression or manic depression, numbness, burning, or tingling, headaches, muscle aches, muscle weakness or paralysis, pain and/or swelling in joints, abdominal Pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, bloating, belching, intestinal gas, troublesome vaginal burning, itching or discharge in women, prostate swelling and/or pain in men, impotence, loss of sexual desire or feeling, infertility, cramps and/or other menstrual irregularities, premenstrual tension, attacks of anxiety or crying, cold hands or feet, low body temperature, shaking or irritable when hungry, cystitis or interstitial cystitis, drowsiness, irritability, poor coordination, frequent mood swings, insomnia, dizziness, loss of balance, pressure above ears, feeling of head swelling, sinus problems, tenderness of cheekbones or forehead, tendency to bruise easy, eczema, itching eyes, psoriasis, chronic hives, indigestion or heartburn, sensitivity to milk, wheat, corn or other common foods, mucous in stools, rectal itching, dry mouth or throat, mouth rashes, white tongue, bad breath, foot, hair, or body odor not relieved by washing, nasal congestion or post nasal drip, nasal itching, sore throat.


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Selenium in Food
Selenium deficiency in the soil, in the vegetables and in food is frequent.

The deficiency may involve whole countries with consequences for large group of the population. The scarcity of selenium in Linxian is well documented. In many other countries or part thereof the soil is also deficient in selenium.

Food g/100g Food g/100g
Oats 17 Wheat 6
Wheat germ 170 Rice 9
Corn 5 Potatoes 2
Raw Sugar 2 Maple Syrup 4
Chocolate 10 Sesame seed 42
Brazil nut 62 Soybeans 7
Lima beans 11 Mackerel 19
Sardine 97 Herring 54
Anchovy 50 Salmon 47
Tuna 81 Abalone 0
Mussel 130 Oyster 61
Clams 0 scallop 93
Shrimp 50 Beef 26
Milk 4 Cheese 10-20
Peas 0 Garlic 10
Apples 0 Tea 20
Curry 28 Pepper 11
Thyme powder 120 Paprika powder 29

Table 1: Selenium content in microgram per one hundred gram of edible food.

(Table of Trace Element Contents in Japanese Foodstuffs.

From a publication by Yasuo Suzuki and Sumizo Tanusi, 1993)



Monitoring Selenium
The selenium status of a person can be assessed by monitoring the selenium plasma and urine level and the selenium content of a hair sample. Human plasma should not contain less than 100-150 and more than 2,800 nanograms of selenium per milliliter. Urine may contain from 50 to 100 nanogram per milliliter. Hair should contain more than 27 micrograms/g. Read more

Selenium Supplementation

 (Quote) "Selenium supplements contain selenium in different chemical forms. In the majority of supplements, the selenium is present as selenomethionine. However, in multivitamin preparations, infant formulas, protein mixes, weight-loss products and animal feed, sodium selenite and sodium selenate are predominantly used. In some products, selenium is present in protein- or amino acid chelated forms; in still others, the form of selenium is not disclosed. Current evidence favors selenomethionine over the other forms of selenium. Extradietary supplementation of selenium at the dosage of 200 micrograms per day is generally considered safe and adequate for an adult of average weight subsisting on the typical American diet." (End quote)

From:  Nutritional Selenium Supplements: Product Types, Quality, and Safety Gerhard N. Schrauzer, PhD, CNS, FACN


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The daily requirement for selenium is among 200 and 250 micrograms (or a minimum of 1 microgram per kilo body weight and per day).

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