Selenium is a trace element with crucial properties. It controls several processes in normal health and metabolism. The mineral promotes thyroid health and plays a role in maintaining cardiovascular and neurological health ( 1 ).
But the deficiency of this mineral can have serious consequences. Reports suggest that selenium deficiency affects nearly one billion people worldwide ( 2 ).
In this post, we will discuss the serious effects that selenium deficiency can have on your health and more importantly – what you can do to prevent them.
What is Selenium Deficiency?
Selenium deficiency refers to an insufficient level of mineral in your system. This may be due to the decreasing levels of selenium in the soil where foods rich in selenium are grown.
Insufficient selenium intake may alter the way certain selenium-responsive enzymes function. These enzymes include glutathione peroxidases, iodothyronine deiodidinases and selenoproteins ( 3 ). People with selenium deficiency are more vulnerable to physiological stresses ( 3 ). Selenium deficiency, as we discussed, can cause more harm than you know. In the next section we will look at how.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Selenium Deficiency?
Selenium deficiency can occur in the form of muscle weakness, anxiety, mood swings and confusion. These symptoms, if ignored, can lead to more complex health risks ( 1 ).
1. Can It Cause Cardiovascular Problems
Selenium deficiency is associated with cardiomyopathy, which is a chronic disease of the heart muscle. Studies have also shown that it causes Keshan's disease, a form of cardiomyopathy prevalent in the Chinese district of Keshan ( 4 ). In mouse studies, the addition of selenium may reduce cardiotoxicity ( 5 ).
Selenium is known to combat oxidative stress. Its deficiency can potentially lead to an increase in oxidative stress, thus possibly affecting heart health ( 5 ).
Selenium deficiency in rats also led to increased myocardial damage. Studies conclude that low serum selenium levels can be considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease ( 5 ).
Mineral deficiency can also cause lipid peroxidation (degradation of lipids). This can lead to elevated blood pressure levels and platelet aggregation, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease. Adequate levels of selenium also protect the heart from certain viral infections ( 6 ).
2. It may affect the endocrine system
The endocrine system regulates hormones that promote growth, development and metabolism ( 7 ). It includes the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands, pancreas, testes (male) and ovaries (female) ( 8 ).
The thyroid gland contains the maximum concentration of selenium among all organs of the human body. Selective iodothyronine deionase enzymes promote thyroid hormone metabolism ( 1 ). Selenium deficiency can hinder this process.
Selenium controls the functioning of over 30 different selenoproteins, all of which exert multiple effects on the endocrine system. These selenoproteins act as antioxidants and alter the function of cells in the system ( 9 ).
3. May impair the musculoskeletal system
Selenium deficiency can cause musculoskeletal disorders. One of them is Kashin-Beck's disease, which is characterized by deformity of the bones, cartilage and joints. This leads to enlarged joints and restricts movement ( 1 ).
Selenium and related selenoproteins also play a role in muscle function. Both cattle and humans have selenium deficiency, which causes several muscular diseases ( 10 ).
4. May affect neural health
Selenium deficiency causes depressive moods and hostile behavior. Deficiency can also affect the speed of some neurotransmitters ( 1 ).
In Alzheimer's patients, selenium concentration is only 60% of that of healthy individuals ( 1 [19459003
Glutathione peroxidases, important selenium-related enzymes, are present mainly in the brain. These enzymes reduce the reactive oxygen species. which can damage brain health Selenium deficiency can interfere with this useful process ( 11 )
5. Can it damage your immune system
Reports link selenium deficiency The mineral can improve the reaction and its inadequacy can be from weakened the immune system ( 1 ).
Selenium deficiency also impaired the immune response and increased the risk of infection ( 12 ). Dietary selenium is important for a healthy immune system.  Selenium deficiency can also lead to immune cell dysfunction ( 13 )
6. It may affect the reproductive system
In men, selenium plays a role in testosterone biosynthesis. Selenium deficiency can cause infertility in men ( 1 ).
Selenium deficiency in women can also lead to infertility problems. However, larger studies are needed to conclude this ( 14 ).
Selenium deficiency can have fatal consequences in the long run. It is important to find out if you are at risk. Some people tend to be at higher risk of deficit than others.
Who is at Risk for Selenium Deficiency?
Although selenium deficiency is quite rare in the United States, some groups of people may be at higher risk.
- Those undergoing kidney dialysis
Kidney dialysis (also known as hemodialysis) removes some selenium from the blood ( 15 ). Dialysis patients may also have selenium deficiency due to strict dietary restrictions. People living with HIV
People living with HIV may become selenium deficient due to excessive nutrient loss through diarrhea. Even malabsorption can lead to deficiency. Serum selenium levels may decrease with disease progression ( 16 ). People living in regions with selenium deficiency
People living in countries whose diet has vegetables grown in low selenium areas may also be at risk of selenium deficiency. These include some parts of China where soil selenium levels are low ( 17 ). Even people living in some European countries can be at risk.
If you are a risk group or have symptoms associated with selenium deficiency, please see your doctor. Any delay can have serious consequences.
How is deficiency diagnosed?
Selenium deficiency is diagnosed and confirmed by measuring serum or plasma mineral concentrations. Selenium levels below 70 bg / mL indicate a deficiency.
How about treatment?
Most often, selenium deficiency affects whole populations. The soils are fertilized and the food is fortified with selenium ( 1 ).
The best treatment for people with selenium deficiency is after a diet rich in selenium. Foods rich in selenium include:
- Brazilian nuts
- tuna yellowfin
- veal liver
- cottage cheese
- brown rice
If you cannot consume any of the selenium-rich foods for some reason, selenium supplements can also help ( 3 ). Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider before taking supplements to avoid selenium toxicity. But it is important to understand how much selenium we need. For adults (both men and women) the RDA for selenium is 55 mcg. For pregnant women it is 60 mcg per day, while for nursing women it is 70 mcg per day. The maximum limit for selenium is 400 mcg per day. Taking it beyond that can lead to problems ( 17 ).
Since selenium is a trace element, we do not pay much attention to it. But as we have seen, it has some very important roles in human health. Its deficiency can cause serious health problems.
If you have symptoms that may be related to selenium deficiency, please see your doctor. Start incorporating foods / supplements into your diet as needed.
Have you been short of selenium before? What measures did you take? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment in the box below.
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https: //www.ncbi.nlm .nih.gov / books / NBK482260 /
- The risk of selenium deficiency is expected to increase with future climate change, Protocol of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States US states.
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov / pubmed / 15749805
- Understanding the Importance of Selenium and Selenoproteins in Muscle Function, Cellular and Molecular Li fe Sciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Cognitive Function in Depth, Oregon State University.
- Selenium deficiency impairs the innate immune response and induces susceptibility to infection with Listeria monocytogenes, BMC Immunology , US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Selenium deficiency inhibits differentiation and immune function and imbalances Th1 / Th2 of dendritic cells, Metallomics, National Medical US Library, National Institutes of Health.
- Selenium, Selenoproteins and female reproduction: a review, Molecules, US National Library of Medicine, National H ealth Institutes.
- Trace elements in hemodialysis patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis, BMC Medicine, US National Library of Medicine , National Institutes of Health.
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