Selenium

DIVYA
December 7, 2020

Selenium is an essential mineral that is needed by the body as a microelement. It is not produced in the human body, so it has to be consumed in the diet or taken as supplements. When it is taken as a dietary supplement, it is known to improve certain conditions that would otherwise abound in its deficiency. It is popularly used as a nootropic, which means it improves cognitive function.

How Does It Work?


The mineral selenium exists in an organic and inorganic form. The organic form is Selenomethionine and Selenocysteine. In contrast, the inorganic form is Selenate and Selenite. In our bodies, it is stored as the organic form of Selenomethionine. 

Selenium can carry out all its numerous health benefits because it contains substances known as Selenoproteins. They carry out enzymatic functions and mediate several physiological functions in the body. Some of them have been outlined below.

Selenium Benefits


Selenium has several important benefits within the brain:

Antioxidant Properties

Selenium is an essential building block for about 25 proteins within the body. Most of these proteins function as important antioxidants, so it’s safe to say that selenium plays a vital role as an antioxidant within the body. It helps the body eliminate free radicals produced during normal metabolic processes and may harm the brain if left unchecked.

Positive Effect on Executive Functions

Selenium has been shown to improve brain health significantly. A reduction in selenium levels in the brain has been discovered to be a serious cause of the cognitive decline. This is because the selenoproteins that help protect the cells which make up the brain matter, require selenium as an essential component.

It Promotes the Action of GABA

Selenium is vital in the development and proper functioning of GABA pathways within the brain. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) acts as a natural depressant within the CNS. It helps counteract the stimulating effects of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine. This is very important for mood stabilization, mental health, and proper cognitive function.

It Regulates Dopamine Levels

Selenium also helps support dopamine pathways. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter within the brain that is involved in several higher brain functions like motivation, arousal, and executive function. During periods of emotional trauma or extreme stress, your dopamine levels can drop significantly. This leads to symptoms like lack of motivation, moodiness, reduced focus, and a chronic fatigue feeling. 

It Facilitates Acetylcholine Neurotransmission

Acetylcholine (ACh) is one of the most important neurotransmitters within the CNS. It is important for muscle control, memory and learning, executive functions, amongst other things. ACh transmission between nerve cells is dependent on selenium, and therefore a deficiency of this important mineral can have serious consequences on your nervous system.

How To Take Selenium


As we pointed out earlier, different forms of selenium exist. So you will find that all the varying forms are being sold in the market. However, endeavor to purchase a supplement that contains both Selenocysteine and Selenomethionine. Selenomethionine because it is easily absorbed and Selenocysteine because it makes up a greater part of the Selenoproteins. 

We recommend a daily dosage of 200 mcg. Several supplements are made at this dose, and it is within the range of safety of Selenium.

Selenium Deficiency


Selenium is found abundantly in the soil where it is absorbed by plants such as whole grains, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, etc. it can also be found in animal sources such as shrimp, tuna, sardine, halibut, etc.

Even though selenium is abundant in the soil, its presence can vary in several regions and subsequently in foods. Thus you would find that there would be reduced quantities of selenium in foods in some regions. Hence, the deficiency of this mineral is quite common among the populace. 

It is recommended that you take 55 mcg of selenium per day. If your intake of selenium in a day exceeds 400 mcg, it is considered toxic, and this is fraught with several dire consequences. 

A selenium deficiency can also be caused by several stressors like an infectious disease, excess alcohol intake, smoking, oxidative damage, or malnutrition. Individuals who are at high risk of selenium deficiency are those who live in regions with poor access to foods rich in selenium, like Africa and Asia.

Selenium Deficiency Symptoms


Some of the deficiency symptoms of selenium include:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Infertility in both genders
  • Muscle weakness
  • Immune deficiency.

 

Selenium Toxicity


When selenium is taken in excess, it causes selenium toxicity and a condition called Selenosis. Toxicity comes to play when selenium is taken at least 400 mcg in a day. It is characterized by symptoms such as 

  • Fatigue 
  • Skin rashes 
  • Stomach upset 
  • Garlicky taste in the mouth 
  • Brittle hair and nails etc.

 

Conclusion


Selenium supplements can be taken for numerous health benefits, especially for their role in cognitive enhancement. Selenium is not produced in the body, so it has to be taken in the diet to be made available in the body. It is sold online as a 200 mcg dose that should be taken once a day.

References:

  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/selenium-benefits
  • https://www.prohealthlongevity.com/blogs/control-how-you-age/all-about-selenium-why-you-need-this-mineral-in-your-diet-for-healthy-aging

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