As a trace mineral, selenium is only needed in small amounts in the body. The body uses it to make certain antioxidants, which help stop the cells of the body from being damaged. As a result, selenium can help treat or prevent several health conditions, such as heart disease, HIV or AIDS, and arthritis.
What Is Selenium?
Selenium is a trace mineral. This means that it is essential for human nutrition, but it is only needed in tiny amounts. Most people in the United States get enough of it through dietary means -- mostly through plant sources. Having a deficiency is rare in the United States, but it may be more common in other parts of the world where levels in the soil and, therefore, in the plants are low. Selenium is claimed to be useful for treating or preventing various medical conditions, such as HIV or AIDS, heart disease, and arthritis.
The body needs a small amount of selenium. Too little or too much can cause problems. The trace mineral is used by the body to make certain antioxidants, which help to fight free-radical damage to the cells. However, high selenium levels can actually have the opposite effect, encouraging free-radical damage.
The mineral also plays a role in the regulation of thyroid hormones and may help to regulate the immune system.
Is It Effective?
Early research suggests that it may be effective for a number of different uses (see Does Selenium Work? for more information).
Although an RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) has been determined for the trace mineral, it can be difficult to recommend a standard dose because the dietary intake can vary.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed January 30, 2008.
National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary supplement fact sheet: Selenium (8/1/2004). NIH Web site. Available at: http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/selenium.asp. Accessed January 30, 2008.
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