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Selenium (SE) is a trace mineral that is essential to good health but required only in small amounts. Selenium is an important antioxidant. The antioxidant properties help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Free radicals are natural by-products of oxygen metabolism that may contribute to the development of chronic diseases, such as, cancer and heart disease. Other selenoproteins help regulate thyroid function and play a role in the immune system.

What are selenium's functions?

Selenium is important for:

What are the signs and symptoms of a selenium deficiency?

The deficiency signs and symptoms include:

Food sources of selenium

Plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries throughout the world. The content of selenium in food depends on the selenium content of the soil where plants are grown or animals are raised.

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 U.S., meats and bread are common sources of dietary selenium. Some nuts are also sources of selenium. Selenium occurs in foods such as corn, wheat, and soybean.

Therapeutic used

Selenium has been used in the following conditions:


Dosages of 400 to 1,000 mcg have been used for immune stimulation and for anti-carcinogenic effect, but 50 to 200 mcg should be adequate to experience health benefits. It is taken with 30 to 400 IU of vitamin E for best effect.

Special notes

Selenium is toxic in small doses so beware of blackened fingernails and or a garlic odor on skin and breath.

Diets that are high in refined foods are more likely to be selenium deficient.

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Bland, J. 1996, Contemporary Nutrition. J & B Associates.

Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

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Cereals are dependent on the amount of selenium in the soil for their selenium content. Countries with low selenium content in their soils include: U.K. Finland, and other parts of Europe, New Zealand and China.