Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Benefits of Selenium

Selenium was identified as an essential human nutrient in 1979 when Chinese nutrition researchers discovered that people with low body stores of selenium were at increased risk of Keshan disease, a disorder of the heart muscle with symptoms that include rapid heartbeat, enlarged heart, and (in severe cases) heart failure, a consequence most common among young children and women of childbearing age.
How does selenium protect your heart? One possibility is that it works as an antioxidant in tandem with vitamin E. A second possibility, raised by U.S. Department of Agriculture studies with laboratory rats, is that it prevents viruses from attacking heart muscle.
Here’s some exciting news: The results of a four-year study involving 1,312 patients previously treated for skin cancer strongly suggests that daily doses of selenium in amounts 3.8 times the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) (55 micrograms) may reduce the incidence of cancers of the lung, prostate, colon, and rectum. The University of Arizona study was designed to see whether taking selenium lowered the risk of skin cancer. It didn’t. But among the patients who got selenium rather than a placebo, 45 percent fewer lung cancers, 58 percent fewer colon and rectal cancers, 63 percent fewer prostate cancers, and a 50 percent lower death rate from cancer overall were recorded. Now a follow-up study will determine whether these results hold up. Although fruits and vegetables grown in selenium-rich soils are themselves rich in this mineral, the best sources of selenium are seafood, meat and organ meats (liver, kidney), eggs, and dairy products.

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