Selenium daily requirement explained: Beware of Brazil nuts

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Two. This is the general recommendation for the maximum number of Brazil nuts suitable for daily consumption. At first glance, this looks like little, but the nuts have it quite a bit in them. Two Brazil nuts can already cover about three to five times the selenium daily requirement. Super! But why only two? Well, what two Brazil nuts can also contain is an average radium content more than 1000 times higher than other foods.

Uff, that sounds anything but healthy. So it’s better to keep your hands off Brazil nuts right away?

Don’t worry, as is so often the case, these statistics seem worse than they are. So you can safely leave the radiation protection suit at home the next time you visit the supermarket.

But why it is still important to adhere to the recommendations for the seleniumdaily requirement and what the myths about the Brazil nut have to do with it, you can find here.

The recommendations for the selenium daily requirement by age and gender

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) regularly publishes estimates for the appropriate intake of essential nutrients. The recommendations on the selenium daily requirement for men and women were last revised in 2015 and look as follows:

Selenium Daily Requirement Infants:

  • up to 4 months: ~10 μg/day
  • 4 to 12 months: ~15 μg/day

Selenium Daily Requirement Children:

  • 1 to 4 years: ~15μg/day
  • 4 to 7 years: ~20 μg/day
  • 7 to 10 years: ~30 μg/day
  • 10 to 13 years: ~45 μg/day

Selenium Daily Requirement Adolescents and Adults:

  • 13 to 15 years: ~60 μg/day

From about 15 years of age, the selenium daily requirement settles in and remains the same even into adulthood. It is assumed that ~70 μg/day in men and ~60 μg/day in women.

By the way, if you exceed these values a bit, this is no reason to worry. The maximum dose still safe for the daily intake of selenium is given by the European Food Safety Authority as ~300 μg.

Does the selenium daily requirement change in women during pregnancy?

In general, the need for nutrients increases during pregnancy. After all, the body now has two people to take care of. In order for the growing baby to get everything it needs, it is often recommended to absorb certain nutrients more intensively.

However, the need for selenium remains largely the same during pregnancy. The guideline for the daily requirement in women is therefore still about 60 μg selenium per day.

Nevertheless, you should make sure to really reach this guideline value, especially during pregnancy. After all, a selenium deficiency can also harm the baby, as he needs the trace element, just like the mother. In addition, with a sufficient selenium intake, you prevent the risk of malformations and premature births.

By the way, when breastfeeding after pregnancy, it is recommended to absorb a little more selenium. The selenium daily requirement for women increases to about 75 μg selenium per day during this time.

Why is it even important to meet the need for selenium?

Selenium is needed by the body for many important metabolic processes:

  • Formation of important thyroid hormones
  • Contribution to sperm production in men
  • The immune system needs selenium to form defense cells
  • In the cells, selenium is used to bind harmful free radicals

If the daily requirement is not covered regularly, one speaks of a selenium deficiency. Because selenium is needed for so many areas in the body, a deficiency can lead to a variety of different symptoms:

  • Diseases of the skin, hair and nails
  • Impaired function of the thyroid gland
  • Muscle diseases
  • Insomnia
  • Headache and joint pain
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Reduced fertility in men

Too much selenium is also harmful: symptoms of overdose

As mentioned above, the safe maximum daily dose of selenium is about 300 μg. If the daily selenium intake is higher in the long term, selenium poisoning can occur. This is called “selenosis”. Pay attention to these symptoms:

  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Visual impairment
  • Joint pain
  • Diseases of the skin, hair and nails

Mind you, the guideline values for selenium are in the microgram range (μg). If there is an extreme overdose, about several grams of selenium, the nutrient can even lead to heart failure. A first sign of such acute selenium poisoning is usually garlic-smelling breath.

However, you usually do not have to worry about such a high overdose. Both foods and common dietary supplements with selenium contain the nutrient only in the microgram portion anyway.

What do Brazil nuts have to do with the selenium daily requirement?

But now back to the Brazil nuts mentioned at the beginning. Are the nutrient bombs from the rainforest now suitable to cover the selenium daily requirement?

In principle, Brazil nuts are very healthy. In addition to about 140% of the recommended daily intake of selenium, a nut contains vegetable protein, unsaturated fatty acids, fiber and important trace elements such as zinc and copper.

If you have no nut allergy and live vegan or vegetarian, they are therefore an excellent alternative to animal selenium sources.

However, the recommendation to eat no more than two Brazil nuts a day is not entirely unfounded. On the one hand, of course, to avoid a selenium overdose. On the other hand, the tree of the Brazil nut is particularly good at absorbing pollutants from the environment due to its fine root system. These are then stored in the fruits, i.e. the Brazil nuts.

In addition to a high level of contamination with naturally occurring radioactive radium, the substances of toxic mold fungi can be found in the nuts again and again. So if you bite on a Brazil nut and it tastes musty or even bitter, you should rather spit it out again.

By the way, if you stick to eating no more than two Brazil nuts a day, the radiation exposure is harmless. As always, the dose makes the poison.

How does the selenium daily requirement change due to Hashimoto’s or other diseases?

When it comes to selenium in connection with certain diseases, it is first important to distinguish how the disease affects selenium intake.

What is often mentioned around this topic is the so-called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or “Hashimoto’sfor short “. This is an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid gland to be attacked by the body’s immune system. The result is chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland.

Adequate intake of selenium in this case is even more important than usual, since the function of the thyroid gland depends heavily on the nutrient. Selenium deficiency in most cases is accompanied by an exacerbation of Hashimoto’s symptoms.

However, the selenium daily requirement itself does not increase due to Hashimoto’s. It is mainly about covering the selenium needs of the body and thus preventing a deficiency.

If, for example, the selenium absorption via the intestine is disturbed by another disease, this can already lead to the fact that you have to absorb more selenium through food so that the body really absorbs enough of it.

In such cases, you should definitely listen to the advice of your doctor. If a selenium deficiency is detected, this can usually be effectively compensated by dietary supplements. In this way, you ensure that the selenium daily requirement is covered sustainably even in the event of illness.

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