Selenium is one of the minerals that is essential to health and it is a problem for those of us where our soils are deficient. There is much in the complementary health literature that says that selenium can prevent cancer, but is that the case? What does the research really say and what could that mean for each one of us?
Selenium is found in cereals, meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, but the amount depends very much on where the food is grown and whether the land is selenium deficient. When the soils are deficient then the plants can not take it up into their cells and when animals eat those plants then they become deficient also.
Selenium acts as an antioxidant and helps to protect the body from free radicals that damage the cells. Studies on animals have shown consistent results. Selenium is needed to reduce tumor size, inhibit cell growth and the development of troublesome new cancerous cells, encourages those troublesome cells to self-destruct and improves immune function.
Epidemiological studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between selenium availability and rates of cancer. The higher the selenium availability, the less cancer in the population of people who live in that area (up to a certain point – beyond that point too much selenium is toxic. However there are only a few places in the world where this is a problem , with some parts of China being one of them.)
There have not been enough studies of a high enough quality for the Cancer Councils around the world to definitively say there is a cause and effect between higher selenium intake and lower cancer. However those studies that have been done are very promising. They show a cancer reduction of nearly 50% overall with effects in breast cancer and very strong effects in prostate cancer.
In the meantime, what does this mean for the ordinary person in the street, or one who might have a brush with cancer? Do we take it or not?
That will depend on where you are in the world. If you are in a place with very high selenium in the ground that provides your food then you will not need to take it. A good rule of thumb is to find out if the farmers in the district need to add it to their stock food. If the animals who eat the grass in your district need it then you do too. If you live in a place like Australia or New Zealand then you almost certainly need it as the soil is very selenium deficient. If you are unsure then you will not go wrong eating a couple of Brazil nuts each day. Brazil nuts are the natural form of selenium and are good to add to your daily food intake.
For those who choose to supplement at the levels that you are allowed to buy from your chemist or pharmacy there is certainly no harm to be done as long as you take the quantity recommended for you and there may be huge benefits. You will not ever know if you are one of the people who do not get the cancer because you supplement, but that is what prevention is all about.
However do not expect selenium to be a magic bullet. It is just one of the aspects of good health. To maximize health you need to do more than just take one supplement. You need to do at least 3 hours moderate exercise weekly, to eat lots of fresh dark colored vegetables and have fruit daily. Reduce the levels of sugar, bread, pasta, rice and cakes in your diet and keep those fizzy soda drinks to special occasions only. This is a good start.
Natural good health requires that you take charge of your life and make the decision to those things which contribute to an improved immune function and an improved sense of wellbeing. So do not just think about it. Make the decision to start making all of the little changes which will improve your health now.