Selenium May Protect Against Viruses, Heart Disease, Arthritis, Hepatitis, and Cancer
New research provides evidence that selenium may protect from serious viral infections and stop the spread of resistant and deadly viruses in addition to preventing and reducing cancer.
According to Edith Gaylord, editor and writer, Health Sciences Institute Newsletter, recent research indicates that selenium stops viruses from mutating and becoming more potent.
"When deficient mice were injected with a flu virus," she said, "the microbe's potency increased so much that they suffered from viral symptoms more than three times longer than infected mice receiving the selenium."
But she noted that it's not just the flu virus that may function like this. Some scientists believe this is how E. bola, HIV, and similar viruses become more powerful and grow resistant to drugs. In fact, a British researcher suggests that low selenium levels may even be part of the reason mad cow disease spread so quickly throughout Europe.
Selenium is a naturally occurring mineral with antioxidant powers - and it used to be abundant in the soil. But, "pesticides and modern farming methods have depleted as much as 80% of it. Supplementing with it could protect you and your loved ones from fatal infections, said Gaylord.
In pointing out that there are numerous medical studies in-process around the world, the conclusions of which are yet pending, or which require additional study, Gaylord says the preliminary indications are very important in the areas of heart, arthritis, HIV / AIDS, and, of course, cancer. The National Institutes of Health, she says, is dedicated to public education regarding health matters and provides information in the following examples:
* Selenium and heart disease. Some population surveys have indicated an association between a lower antioxidant intake with a greater incidence of heart disease. Additional lines of evidence suggest that oxidative stress from free radicals may promote heart disease. For example, it is the oxidized form of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, often called "bad" cholesterol) that promotes plaque build-up in coronary arteries. Selenium is one of a group of antioxidants that may help limit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and thereby helps to prevent coronary artery disease.
* Selenium and arthritis. Surveys of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in joints, have indicated that the victims have reduced selenium levels in their blood. In addition, some individuals with arthritis have a low selenium intake.
* The body's immune system naturally makes free radicals that can help destroy invading organisms and damaged tissue, but that can also harm healthy tissue. Selenium, as an antioxidant, may help control levels of free radicals and help to relieve symptoms of arthritis. Selenium and HIV / AIDS. Vitamin and mineral absorption problems associated with HIV / AIDS has been shown to deplete levels of many vital nutrients. Selenium deficiency is commonly associated with HIV / AIDS. Selenium deficiency has been associated with a high risk of death from HIV / AIDS.
A study based on 24 children with HIV, who had been observed for five years, reported that those with low selenium levels died at a younger age. The study may have indicated accelerated disease progression . . . Researchers believe that selenium may be important in HIV disease because of its role in the immune system and as an antioxidant. Selenium also may be needed for the replication of the HIV virus (the virus needs and uses up selenium) and thereby could deplete the host's selenium or deny the host adequate levels of selenium . . . Researchers see a need for clinical trials that evaluate the effect of selenium supplementation on HIV disease progression.
* Selenium and Hepatitis. Selenium is seen to be essential for healthy immune functioning. Supplementation has been shown, in some studies, to reduce the incidence of hepatitis in observed deficient groups. In studies of some non-deficient populations of elderly people, selenium supplementation was found to stimulate the activity of white blood cells; white blood cells are primary vital components of the immune system.
* Selenium and Prostate Cancer. On August 22 1998, CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reported that some 40,000 men die every year from prostate cancer, but a new study . . . published by the National Cancer Institute, found men who had the highest intakes of the mineral selenium cut their cancer rates by one-half to two thirds compared to men with the lowest intakes of selenium. "The notion that vitamins and minerals might prevent prostate cancer is a particularly exciting thing," said Dr. Philip Taylor of the National Cancer Institute.
In a study based on analysis of toe clippings to determine which subjects had the most selenium in their diet, researchers found that subjects with the most selenium in their diet developed 65% fewer cases of advanced prostate cancer than did men with the lowest levels of selenium intake (analysis of hair clippings and nail clippings is useful in certain analytical studies).
* Selenium and Other Cancer. The traditional medical research on selenium has continued and there is more and more evidence that dual source selenium (designed to have a high impact on blood serum levels) is indeed one of the most important and effective supplements to help prevent, treat, or even reverse cancer.
In articles, December 24, 1996*, both the American Medical Journal and CNN reported that . . . selenium may lower several cancer risks. The study was designed to look at selenium's effect on skin cancer, but researchers found that while it made no measurable difference there, the mineral did have effects on other types of cancers.
"It really looks like the longer you take the supplement, the more effective it might be in preventing cancer," said University of Arizona epidemiologist Larry Clark, MD, who led the study. Selenium may work as an antioxidant, like vitamin E, to help prevent damage to genes that can lead to cancer. The mineral is known to preserve the elasticity of body tissues and is important for proper function of the immune system . . . In the selenium group, there were 50 percent fewer cancer deaths than in the placebo group, researchers reported in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. But the researchers cautioned that their results need to be replicated . . . The daily supplement pills used by University of Arizona researchers contained 200 micrograms of selenium, about three times the current recommended daily allowance. "It was still within the limits of what the Food and Drug Administration considers safe and adequate, Clark said.
Another double-blind study that included over 1,300 people found those given 200 mcg of yeast based selenium per day for 4.5 years had a 50% drop in the cancer death rate compared with the non-selenium-placebo group.
* Selenium and what it does. Selenium activates an antioxidant enzyme (called glutathione peroxidase) which seems to help protect the body from some types of cancer. Yeast derived forms of selenium have induced programmed cancer cell death in test tube studies and in some animals.
* Selenium, avoid high levels. One minor problem is that very high levels of selenium can be harmful, causing nails and hair to become brittle and can cause neurologic problems. An adult intake of 200 mcg of selenium per day is recommended by many doctors. In the presence of iodine-deficiency-induced goiter, selenium supplementation has been reported to exacerbate low thyroid function Certain medications may interact with selenium so it would be prudent discuss the use of selenium and your current medication(s) with your doctor or pharmacist.
* Selenium's food sources. According to the National Institutes of Health, plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries throughout the world. The amount of selenium in soil, which varies by region, determines the amount of selenium in the plant foods that are grown in that soil. Researchers know that soils in the high plains of northern Nebraska and the Dakotas have very high levels of selenium. People living in those regions generally have the highest selenium intakes in the United States. Soils in some parts of the world have very low amounts of selenium and dietary selenium deficiency is often reported in those regions.
Selenium also can be found in some meats and seafood. Animals that eat grains or plants that were grown in selenium rich soil have higher levels of selenium in their muscle. In the United States, meats and bread are common sources of dietary selenium. Some nuts, especially Brazil nuts and walnuts, are good sources of selenium.
Notes: Correspondent Andrew Holtz and The Associated Press contributed to this CNN article which can be found at http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9612/24/nfm/index.html, and the Journal of the American Medical Association can be found in the archives at http://jama.ama-assn.org/.
This article is for information purposes only. The Staff at Centreforce Australia are not health care professionals, and do not diagnose, prescribe, or medicate. Always consult a licensed health care professional regarding your health.
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