What is selenium and why does our body need it? All in 7 minutes read

What is selenium and why does our body need it? All in 7 minutes read

“The trace element selenium is important.” “Selenium is vital.” “Selenium is involved in many processes in the body.” This and a lot more can be read about selenium. In short: Selenium is important. But what is this substance and why do we need it?

The vital necessity of selenium can be taken literally. It is essential,i.e. our body cannot produce the trace element itself. We have to feed it to our metabolism from the outside – i.e. through food or supplements.

It is involved in countless reactions in the body. That selenium regulates thyroid hormones is probably the most well known. It is also indispensable in the antioxidant protection system against free radicals. Even the fertility of the man depends heavily on the selenium balance.

Overall, selenium is often found in individual foods. However, the crux of the day lies in the quantity, because the dose can fluctuate quite far. If you live vegan or vegetarian,you have to be especially careful: There are large fluctuationsin the selenium content of plant foods. This is strongly influenced by the soil.

But let’s go through all the questions in order:

  • What is selenium?
  • What is selenium good for?

What is selenium?

Selenium is not only needed for glass, pigments and photocells. Although it is usually obtained from metal sulfide ores, selenium also occurs as an essential trace element and is necessary for humans, animals and bacteria. In higher doses, however, selenium is toxic. This is especially important because the difference between a selenium deficiency and a toxic concentration in the body is very small. So you have to be careful and control during the intake. However, toxicity – how toxic the element is – also depends on the chemical bond form.

For example, gaseous selenium – selenium in the form of hydrogen selenium – is toxic and not intended for consumption.

Selenomethionine, on the other hand, is an organic substancethat is approved for dietary supplements. Here selenium is produced by breeding brewer’s yeasts on the nutrient medium sodium selenite. Sodium selenite is also used in medicine, e.B. for digestive and utilization disorders.

Selenium is contained in organisms mainly in the amino acid selenocysteine. This can be part of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase or the many other selenium proteins. Selenocysteine is mainly found in animals, bacteria or microbes. Plants simply incorporate selenium into other amino acids. Exceptions are the selenium collector plants, such as the paradise nut, which store selenium as water-soluble selenium or salt.

According to studies, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, men should consume 70 micrograms, women 60 micrograms and breastfeeding women 75 micrograms of selenium daily. In addition, the total intake should not exceed 300 micrograms per day.

Depending on the study, symptoms of poisoning occur only from 400 micrograms or only from 3000 micrograms per day. At the latter dose, however, there are already drastic symptoms.

Since our selenium supply is heavily dependent on the soil, europe’s soils must also be looked at more closely. Compared to the USA, the selenium supply is already largely ensured due to the soil. In some areas with a selenium-poor soil, however, this may differ.

What is selenium good for?

The free radicals were briefly discussed. Selenium is a great protection against oxidative destruction:it is a so-called radical scavenger. Selenocysteine is irreplaceable for the degradation of oxidants.

This involvement in the degradation of oxidants is also the basis for some symptoms of selenium deficiency. Fewer oxidants are “caught”, which is why, for example, cardiovascular diseases can occur.

Selenium is also important for the thyroid gland. Too little selenium can lead to hypothyroidism (hypothyroidism).

The trace element selenium is absorbed into the blood from food in the small intestine and stored in the skeletal muscles. But it is also found in selenium traces in the kidneys, heart, liver, of course in the blood and also in the brain. It is also excreted by the kidneys or urine.

Overall, it can be said that selenium is or is good for it:

  • for normal thyroid function
  • for a normally functioning immune system
  • for normal sperm formation
  • for the maintenance of normal hair
  • for the maintenance of normal nails
  • for the protection of cells from oxidative stress

Until some time ago, it was suspected that selenium prevents cardiovascular disease and could protect against cancer. In larger studies, however, the protective function against cardiovascular diseases has been refuted: Selenium has been proven not to protect against cardiovascular diseases. In cancer, no protective function has yet been demonstrated.

Overall, you should clarify your own selenium balance with the doctor of trust. For certain population groups, a regular intake of supplements can be useful. These would be people who:

  • eat vegan,
  • get dialysis,
  • suffer from eating disorders,
  • who suffer from diseases that interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the intestine.

Selenium as a radical scavenger and for the thyroid gland

All in all, it can be said that selenium is indispensable for us. Our body needs the trace element as a radical scavenger. Likewise, normal functioning of the thyroid gland is not possible without selenium.

Overall, however, the supply in German-speaking countries looks quite good. For some groups of people, however, there may be a selenium deficiency.

So it means keeping an eye on the selenium budget!

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