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Selenium: The Immune System Mineral

building immune systemSelenium is an essential trace mineral that can make a life-or-death difference and that many of us lack. Selenium is an antioxidant key to preventing cancer and stopping the progression of HIV infection from developing into AIDS. Research suggests that selenium can protect humans against cancer of the lung, ovaries, breast, colon, liver, cervix, skin, stomach and uterus. When sufficient selenium levels are achieved, the risk of getting cancer is half that of a person who is selenium deficient. There are few good food sources of selenium, so supplementation may be the best way to obtain selenium's protective benefits.

As an immune supportive mineral, selenium stimulates the development and function of all types of white blood cells and enhances the ability of lymphocytes and NK cells, or killer cells, to activate and respond to invaders such as bacteria and viruses, including the flu. Selenium works synergistically with Vitamin E, A and C as an antioxidant.

In addition, Selenium binds with many toxic minerals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury and facilitates their excretion from the body. By detoxifying per oxidized fats, via its role in the enzyme glutathione and peroxidase, selenium inhibits their carcinogenicity (cancer promoting traits). Selenium also counteracts many of the toxic effects of smoking tobacco. Smoking depletes the body's selenium supplies. In the liver this mineral retards the conversion of hydrocarbons into carcinogens — an important function in our polluted environment. Good food sources include Brasis nuts, brewer's yeast, organically grown vegetables, sesame seeds, garlic, seafood, liver, and mushrooms. However, modern methods of farming and processing foods has depleted their nutritional value of this much needed mineral, along with other essential minerals.

Selenium Supplementation May Reduce Cancer Risk

One in every four deaths in this country is caused by cancer. That's 1,500 people each day. Many of these cancers are caused by our own bad behaviors - tobacco and alcohol use, lack of exercise, and poor diet - which has led researchers to investigate the ability of nutritional supplements to reduce cancer risk. There's now convincing evidence that selenium (an essential mineral found in various foods such as Brazil nuts and mushrooms) when taken daily as a supplement can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. In one clinical study, the risk of prostate cancer was reduced 63% in men supplementing with selenium compared to a placebo group. This result has created tremendous interest in the medical community and the National Cancer Institute has funded a much larger study called SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) that will enroll 32,000 male subjects to better determine selenium's ability to prevent cancer. For more information about SELECT and the selenium-prostate cancer link, visit crab.org/select/.


Host nutritional selenium status as a driving force for influenza virus mutations (PDF file)
Heather K. Nelson, Qing Shi, Peter Van Dael, Eduardo J. Schiffrin, Stephanie Blum, Denis Barclay, Orville A. Levander, and Melinda A. Beck, Departments of Nutrition and Pediatrics, University of NC at Chapel Hill; Nestlé Research Center, Lausanne, Switzerland; and USDA, ARS, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Beltsville, MD Corresponding author: Melinda A. Beck, Ph.D., Department of Pediatrics, 535 Burnett-Womack, CB #7220, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Se-adequate mice infected with virus recovered from Se-deficient mice develop severe lung pathology Previous work in our laboratory (5) demonstrated that Se-deficient mice developed much more severe pathology postinfluenza virus infection than did Se-adequate mice.

According to the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service:
"New clinical reports from Zambia, Uganda and South Africa indicate that AIDS may be stopped by nutritional supplementation. A number of members of the medical profession have observed that high doses of the trace element selenium, and of the amino acids cysteine, tryptophan, and glutamine can together rapidly reverse the symptoms of AIDS, as predicted by Dr. Harold D. Foster's nutritional hypothesis." Burbano X, Miguez-Burbano MJ, McCollister K, Zhang G, Rodriguez A, Ruiz P, Lecusay R, Shor-Posner G. Impact of a selenium chemoprevention clinical trial on hospital admissions of HIV-infected participants. HIV Clin Trials. 2002 Nov-Dec;3(6):483-91. Baum MK, Shor-Posner G, Lai S, Zhang G, Lai H, Fletcher MA, Sauberlich H, Page JB. High risk of HIV-related mortality is associated with selenium deficiency. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol. 1997 Aug 15;15(5):370-4.El-Bayoumy K. The protective role of selenium on genetic damage and on cancer. Mutat Res. 2001 Apr 18;475(1-2):123-39. Combs GF Jr. Status of selenium in prostate cancer prevention. Br J Cancer. 2004 Jul 19;91(2):195-9.Patrick L. Toxic metals and antioxidants: Part II. The role of antioxidants in arsenic and cadmium toxicity. Altern Med Rev. 2003 May;8(2):106-28. Whanger PD. Selenium in the treatment of heavy metal poisoning and chemical carcinogenesis.
J Trace Elem Electrolytes Health Dis. 1992 Dec;6(4):209-21.

Additional References and Research



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