Selenium is an essential trace element, essential in the sense that our bodies cannot synthesize it, and we must get what we need of it in our diets.
Suboptimal intakes of selenium, i.e., intakes below the recommended intake levels, are associated with increased disease risks, in particular increased risk of autoimmune diseases, chronic diseases, inflammation, etc.
Unfortunately, the health risks of selenium deficiency are often neglected. Here are some facts:
- Preventable endemic diseases are known in regions with selenium deficiency, e.g., in certain parts of China.
- Sufficiently high selenium status is a prerequisite for adequate immune system response.
- Individuals living in regions with selenium-poor soil, women who are pregnant, individuals with autoimmune thyroid disease, and individuals with a severe illness, e.g. COVID-19, are known to have sub-optimal selenium intakes and status.
- Improved dietary choices and/or selenium supplementation are efficient ways to avoid severe selenium deficiency.
These are the major points in a recent journal article published by Professor Lutz Schomburg, Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.
Selenium and Selenoproteins
The micronutrient selenium is a component of the amino acid selenocysteine, which is itself an essential part of some 25 selenoproteins identified in human biology. Some selenoproteins are known to be essential for life; accordingly, they are preferentially synthesized and distributed. The brain, for example, has high priority for selenium in times of scarcity.