By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
What is Selenium?
Selenium is a trace mineral with antioxidant properties and is part of a range of enzymes (Selenoproteins) that helps in the prevention of cellular damage caused by free radicals. The most well-known is glutathione peroxidase which helps to protect cell membranes and improves their overall function.
Which foods provide us with Selenium?
Good sources of selenium include brown rice wheatgerm, tomatoes, onion, butter, garlic, grains, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, walnuts, raisins, chicken, turkey, shellfish (especially oysters), fish (especially tuna). Selenium levels are enhanced when consumed with vitamin E.
Why is it needed by the body?
It is vital for the normal functioning of the immune system and thyroid gland. Necessary for the repair of DNA. Improves liver function. Maintains healthy skin, hair and eyesight.
Why is it needed by the body in relation to fertility?
Selenium is an antioxidant that is important to fertility because it prevents oxidation and DNA damage in the egg. It is important in oogenesis and spermatogenesis (egg and sperm production). In studies men with low sperm counts have been found to have low levels of selenium. Increasing selenium levels may lead to improved sperm motility. A low selenium status has been tied to low birth weight babies and preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure during pregnancy. It is important for healthy functioning of the thyroid gland.
What can cause a deficiency of Selenium?
Intestinal problems that affect the bodies ability to absorb nutrients, malnourishment, diets high in processed foods, those with rheumatoid arthritis. A sign of selenium deficiency can be an enlarged heart. Low selenium in soil- cereals are dependent on the amount of selenium in the soil for their selenium content (countries with low selenium soil levels include the UK, Finland, other parts of Europe, New Zealand and China.
What are some of the symptoms of a deficiency?
Reduced fertility, reduced immunity and resistance to infections, inflammation, heart disease, impaired growth.
Did you know?
A single brazil nut provides enough selenium to meet the daily requirement for a human adult.
Interesting reading: Pieczyńska J, Grajeta H. The role of selenium in human conception and pregnancy. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015 Jan;29:31-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2014.07.003. Epub 2014 Jul 19. PMID: 25175508.