Selenium Protects Against Cadmium Poisoning and Atherosclerosis

Cadmium leaking from iron water pipes into drinking water may be a primary cause of increased risk of atherosclerosis – the increased risk of a buildup of plaque on the inside of the artery walls with inflammation as a consequence. This is the thesis of the Danish cardiologist Anton Dorph-Petersen.

Heart attack
Cadmium from drinking water accumulates in the body and causes damage to the layer of cells lining the inside of arteries, leading to a buildup of plaque and to increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart attack. Cadmium is a heavy metal that is found everywhere in the earth. Cadmium accumulates primarily in the liver and kidneys with toxic effects on the kidneys in particular. People with insufficient selenium and iron accumulate more cadmium. Cadmium takes a long time to be eliminated from the body. Iron water pipes and cigarette smoking are significant sources of cadmium in the body.

Dr. Dorph-Petersen asserts that the danger of cadmium toxicity is greatest in regions of the world in which the selenium content of the soil and plants is low and in regions of the world in which there is low dietary intake of selenium containing fish [Dorph-Petersen 2017].

Let me lay out Dr. Dorph-Petersen’s reasoning step by step. His hypothesis has not yet been verified by clinical trials.

However, we do know from a survey of 15,689 study participants in the US that low blood selenium and high blood cadmium are independent risk factors for heart failure. read more

Selenium and Radiation Therapy for Cancer Patients

Cancer patients tend to have reduced serum selenium concentrations compared to healthy controls. Adjuvant selenium supplementation improves the protection of healthy tissue in tumor patients undergoing radiation therapy [Muecke 2018].

Cologne cathedral in Germany
15 years of experience with adjuvant selenium supplementation in radiation oncology in Germany has yielded a solid knowledge database. As a result,  some radiation oncologists measure the patient’s selenium levels during therapy and compensate in cases of selenium deficiency. Even so, it is important to remember that selenium status is  a relatively small piece in the bigger puzzle of therapeutic success in radiation oncology.

In a 2018 review of 15-years of experience with selenium supplementation in radiation oncology, Muecke et al [2018] reported on two randomized controlled trials. The researchers observed positive effects of the supplemental selenium and no adverse effects in the patients undergoing radiation therapy:

  • 81 patients with uterine cancer
  • 39 patients with head and neck tumors
Selenium Deficit in Cancer Patients

In the majority of the tumor patients (carcinomas of the uterus, head and neck, lungs, rectum or prostate) whom they examined, German researchers found a relative selenium deficit in whole blood or serum [Muecke 2018]. read more