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Owing to its antioxidant and immune support potential, role of selenium supplementation in reducing several degenerative diseases and maintaining optimal health has been widely studied.
Selenium and Cancer Management
Selenium is an unusual trace element in having its own codon in mRNA that specifies its insertion into selenoproteins as selenocysteine (SeCys), by means of a mechanism requiring a large SeCys insertion complex. This exacting insertion machinery for selenoprotein production has implications for the selenium requirements for cancer prevention. If selenium may protect against cancer, an adequate intake of selenium is desirable.
Newly-published prospective studies on different types of cancer have reinforced previous evidence suggesting beneficial role of selenium. Interventions with selenium have shown benefit in reducing the risk of cancer incidence and mortality in all cancers combined, and specifically in thyroid, liver, prostate, cervical, colorectal, oral and lung cancers. The effect seems to be strongest in those individuals with the lowest selenium status (Kim et al., 2005; Madiyal et al., 2016; Son et al., 2017; He et al., 2017).
Selenium Helps Improve Cognitive Function
Cognitive performance declines naturally with age, but the results of a cross-sectional survey of cognitive function in rural elderly Chinese suggest that this increased long-term selenium intake may slow this decline. A person's selenium intake throughout life may influence how well they retain cognitive function as they age.
From the study it was seen that selenium exposure, unlike other factors studied for Alzheimer’s disease, is a factor that is easily modifiable by changing dietary habits or through supplements. Authors concluded that long-term exposure to selenium may be needed to impact brain function later in life (Gao et al., 2007).
Selenium supplementation is also reported to improve confused and depressed mental states, mental fatigue and anxiety in adults. Most importantly, preventive measures for cognitive decline can prolong the state of healthy aging and maintain the quality of life for many elderly individuals.
Selenium in the Management of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome, a major global disease, is a clustering of abnormalities typically involving abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension.
A study was planned to determine possible role for selenium intake in the modulation of serum complement factor 3, whose assessment may be an early marker of metabolic syndrome manifestations. In this study, several anthropometrical and biochemical measurements were evaluated in 100 healthy young adults (aged between 18–34 years). Results showed that selenium status appears to be linked with serum complement factor 3, thus emphasizing on the putative effect of increased selenium intake against risk factors for metabolic syndrome and inflammation (Puchau et al., 2009).
In another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial 8-week supplementation with selenium in 60 patients with type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease demonstrated a significant improvement in metabolic profiles, reduced levels of inflammatory biomarkers, and oxidative stress compared with the placebo (Farrokhian et al., 2016).
Selenium Helps Boost Immune System
The role of nutrition in infectious diseases has long been associated with changes in the immune response of the nutritionally-deficient host.
The discovery that the juvenile cardiomyopathy known as Keshan disease likely has a dual etiology that involves both a nutritional deficiency of the essential trace mineral selenium as well as an infection with an enterovirus provided the impetus for additional studies of relationships between nutrition and viral infection.
Insufficient intake of selenium enhances predisposition to diseases associated with oxidative stress to cells and tissues (McKenzie et al., 1998), while supplementation has been shown to confer health benefits, such as enhanced immune competence and resistance to viral infections (Gill and Walker, 2008).