Aging Gracefully with Selenium

According to Bruce Ames, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, when certain vital micronutrients are in short supply, the body undergoes slow, insidious changes that undermine health and increase the risk of chronic disease.

One such crucial micronutrient (technically a mineral) is selenium. Dr. Ames and his fellow researchers recently analyzed 25 studies to judge the activity of immune-system components called selenoproteins - which, as the name suggests, contain selenium as an essential component.

His conclusion? Even a "modest" selenium deficiency appears to be associated with age-related diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease and immune dysfunction.

What Leads to Selenium Deficiency?

A well-balanced diet typically supplies the selenium you need, but certain factors may deplete this mineral. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, cigarettes, alcohol, birth control pills, and conditions that prevent nutrient absorption (like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis), may increase the risk of selenium deficiency.

How Does Selenium Work?

Selenium works as an antioxidant, especially when combined with vitamin E. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals in the body, which in turn prevents cellular aging. In additional to selenium, here is a detailed list of 5 other antioxidants that will fight for you.

In addition to its own antioxidant characteristics, without selenium, your body can't make glutathione, which is your body's most abundant and important natural antioxidant. Glutathione has been called the “Master Antioxidant”, the “Mother of all Antioxidants,” and the “Superhero of Antioxidants.” Glutathione fights off cellular invaders, repairs cellular damage, boosts the power and life of other antioxidants, and plays a very important role in cellular detoxification.

Seleniuml also plays a role in thyroid function, and is used by the immune system.

Where is Selenium Found?

Diet: Brazil nuts are an impressive source of selenium, but enjoy sparingly: The National Institutes of Health warns their unusually high content could lead to an overdose if consumed in excess. Play it safe with a small serving on occasion. Other dietary sources include brewer's yeast, wheat germ, garlic, brown rice, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, walnuts, raisins, chicken, shellfish, and both fresh and saltwater fish.

The key is choosing a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods.

Supplements: Liquid forms bypass digestion for quick, easy use by the body. If you prefer capsules or tablets, opt for a plant-based formula within a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement or a purely mineral supplement. The Body Ecology Ancient Earth Minerals are a wonderful blend made from bio-available sources of minerals. Definitely look for supplements without additives or synthetics.

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods


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