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Lack of Selenium May Increase Chronic Disease Risk

A review has found that selenium deficiency may increase the risk of various age related diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It was conducted by researchers at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

The researchers published their findings in the February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Selenium is a trace mineral essential for good health, as it helps protect the body from cellular damage by free radicals.

For the study the researchers analyzed the activity and concentrations of 12 separate selenoproteins, seven of which are essential and 5 of which are non-essential. They found that when levels of selenium are deficient the activity and levels of the non-essential selenoproteins were significantly reduced.

These results support a theory known as “triage theory” which states that “our short-term survival is achieved by prioritizing the allocation of scarce micronutrients.” That means that if something like our heart is slightly deficient in a nutrient such as selenium, our body will pull the nutrient from less essential sources.

This ensures our short term survival (i.e we won’t be stricken with heart failure) but can result in more long term diseases such as heart disease and dementia. Keeping an eye on your consumption of nutrients such as selenium may therefore help offset the risk of these long term chronic diseases.

Selenium is mostly found in plant foods, but also in some meats and seafood. Some foods that are high in selenium are Brazil nuts, mushrooms, pork and tuna. Previous studies have linked selenium to a decrease in the risk of some cancers, regulation of blood sugar levels and reducing the effects of aging.

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