Top Six Benefits of Selenium

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Did you know that selenium, an essential mineral, has the ability to protect your health in multiple ways and is abundant in Brazil nuts?

Selenium is an important mineral for your body and only a small amount is needed (the recommended daily intake is 55 micrograms (mcg)).[1] Due to poor soil,[2] taking certain pharmaceutical drugs such as statins[3],[4] and the normal aging process,[5] selenium is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the world. 

Selenium is linked to many healthy outcomes, including protection from diseases and reduction of disease symptoms. An easy way to help ensure your selenium level is optimal is to eat several Brazil nuts every day.

Six Top Benefits of Selenium

1. Antioxidant and Reduces Oxidative Stress

As an antioxidant, selenium is even more beneficial than vitamins A, C, D and E and helps to decrease oxidative stress, which is the result of an imbalance in the body between free radicals and antioxidants.[6]

Oxidative stress contributes to a variety of diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels), inflammatory conditions, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's) and cancers and contributes to aging.[7]

Supplementing with selenium was reviewed in 13 studies showing significant impact on three antioxidant markers, thus reducing oxidative stress.[8]

Eating Brazil nuts (approximately three per day for 12 weeks) was found to increase plasma selenium, increase enzymatic antioxidant activity of glutathione peroxidase and reduce oxidation in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in a study of 91 patients with high blood pressure and problematic lipid profiles.[9]

2. Boosts Skin Health

In a meta-analysis of 27 studies with a total of 1,315 patients and 7,181 healthy controls, selenium levels were found to be low in patients with four skin diseases: psoriasis, acne vulgaris, chloric acne and atopic dermatitis.[10]

Another research study of DNA reprogramming  of inflammatory cells confirms that higher selenium levels may instill protective properties for genes important for psoriasis prevention and treatment.[11]

Selenium was also found to be beneficial in the treatment of psoriasis in a systematic review of research.[12] In addition, selenium has been related to improvements in skin aging (skin elasticity and skin roughness).[13]

Blood glutathione peroxidase (low levels indicate increased damage to cell membranes due to accumulation of free radicals and signify low selenium levels)[14] was measured in 61 healthy subjects and 506 patients with various skin disorders (i.e., psoriasis, eczema, atopic dermatitis, vasculitis, mycosis fungoides and dermatitis herpetiformis, pemphigoid, acne conglobata, polymyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and systemic lupus erythematodes) and supplementation with selenium and vitamin E restored the skin's balance.[15]

3. Benefits Asthma

Asthma (a condition with breathing difficulties, coughing and sneezing) is a complicated disease to treat and is associated with increased inflammation, oxidative stress and abnormal immune system function. In a meta-analysis of 40 studies, asthma patients showed significantly lower levels of selenium compared to healthy subjects, suggesting lower selenium intake could be a risk factor for the disease.[16]

As mentioned, selenium, as an antioxidant, has been found to lower oxidative stress. This,in turn, seems to reduce allergic asthma.[17] In addition, dietary selenium as an antioxidant therapy may be important in optimizing asthma treatment and prevention.[18]

In a study of 25 asthmatic patients and 25 healthy subjects, asthmatics had lower concentrations of selenium, increased oxidative stress markers and inflammation and decreased antioxidant glutathione peroxidase activity and lung function.[19]

Nutritional supplement therapy including selenium balanced oxidant stress, inflammation and immune system responses, pulmonary function and health-related quality of life in patients with mild to moderate allergic asthma.[20]

4. Helps Prevent and Improve Thyroid Diseases

Selenium is an essential micronutrient for your body and readily found in the thyroid. As a supplement, it can help prevent immune-mediated thyroid disorders by reducing anti-thyroperoxidase antibody levels and improving thyroid ultrasound features.[21]

The prevalence of pathological thyroid conditions (hypothyroidism, subclinical hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroiditis, enlarged thyroid) was significantly lower in the adequate-selenium group than in the low-selenium group (18% versus 30.5%) in a sample of 6,152 subjects in China.[22]

Selenium administration (200 milligrams per day) significantly improved quality of life, reduced ocular involvement and slowed progression of 159 patients with mild Graves' orbitopathy (also called thyroid eye disease).[23]

5. Promotes Heart Health

The combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity and high cholesterol is called metabolic syndrome and when these conditions occur together, they dramatically increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.[24]

In a study of 2,069 patients, dietary selenium intake had a moderate negative association with metabolic syndrome.[25] In a study of 501 British volunteers aged 60 to 74 years, supplementation with selenium (100 mcg, 200 mcg, 300 mcg) showed progressive decreases in total cholesterol profiles for those with low selenium levels, but cautions that those with already high selenium intake might be adversely affected by extra selenium supplementation.[26]

In a 12-year follow-up of a group of healthy elderly participants who were supplemented with selenium and coenzyme Q10 for four years, there was a significantly reduced risk for cardiovascular mortality in the treatment group (28.1%) compared to the placebo group (38.7%).[27]

6. Brain Boosting

Alzheimer's disease, a devastating brain disorder, is characterized by two pathological protein deposits, the senile plaques of amyloid-β and tangles of protein tau. In addition, oxidative stress and neural signal transmission disorders also impact Alzheimer's.

A large body of studies suggests that selenium (Se), either as Se-containing compounds or as selenoproteins, is involved in most of the molecular pathways that are important in the progression of dementia and therefore have the potential to help prevent or improve Alzheimer's.[28]

In a mouse model, selenium yeast showed several benefits for Alzheimer's subjects; it decreased the generation of amyloid-β and enhanced autophagic clearance (old cells are recycled and cleaned out to make room for new cells in the brain), which reduced the burden of amyloid-β accumulation.[29]

Another animal study confirmed that selenium (sodium selenite) significantly decreased tau-positive neurons and reversed Alzheimer's-like memory and neuropsychiatric symptoms in mice with advanced dementia.[30] Additionally, selenium induced protective effects against experimental dementia-induced brain inflammation and oxidative stress by enhancing the antioxidant system in rats.[31]

In 79 Alzheimer's patients, probiotic and selenium co-supplementation for 12 weeks improved cognitive function and some metabolic profiles such as lipid, antioxidant and insulin levels.[32]  Selenium and zinc are essential trace elements and an inadequate dietary intake has been implicated in the decline of immune and cognitive functions in aged persons and influences age-related disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Type 2 diabetes.[33]

Selenium and Health

Selenium, a widely researched essential mineral, is beneficial to your health due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, immunomodulatory (regulates immune functions) and cardioprotective properties. See more research about the effects of selenium deficiency and selenium supplementation on overall well-being at


[1]  Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, Factsheets, Selenium.

[2] Gerrad D. Jones, Boris Droz, Peter Greve, Pia Gottschalk, Deyan Poffet, Steve P. McGrath, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Pete Smith, Lenny H. E. Winkel. Climate change affects selenium deficiency risk Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar 2017, 114 (11) 2848-2853; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1611576114

[3] Andrea Kromer, Bernd Moosmann. Statin-induced liver injury involves cross-talk between cholesterol and selenoprotein biosynthetic pathways. Mol Pharmacol. 2009 Jun;75(6):1421-9. Epub 2009 Mar 30. PMID: 19332511

[4] Bernd Moosmann, Christian Behl. Selenoprotein synthesis and side-effects of statins. Lancet. 2004 Mar 13;363(9412):892-4. PMID: 15031036

[5] Cai, Zhonglin & Zhang, Jianzhong & Hongjun, Li. (2018). Selenium, aging and aging-related diseases. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research. doi.10.1007/s40520-018-1086-7.

[6] Best Medicine Book. info, Top 5 Health Benefits of Selenium.

[7], Health, Oxidative Stress.

[8] Motahareh Hasani, Shirin Djalalinia, Maryam Khazdooz, Hamid Asayesh, Maryam Zarei, Armita Mahdavi Gorabi, Hossein Ansari, Mostafa Qorbani, Ramin Heshmat. Effect of selenium supplementation on antioxidant markers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Hormones (Athens). 2019 Dec ;18(4):451-462. Epub 2019 Dec 10. PMID: 31820398

[9] Grazielle V B Huguenin, Glaucia M Oliveira, Annie S B Moreira, Tatiana D Saint'Pierre, Rodrigo A Gonçalves, Alessandra R Pinheiro-Mulder, Anderson J Teodoro, Ronir R Luiz, Glorimar Rosa. Improvement of antioxidant status after Brazil nut intake in hypertensive and dyslipidemic subjects.  Nutr J. 2015 ;14:54. Epub 2015 May 29. PMID: 26022214

[10] Jun Lv, Ping Ai, Shuying Lei, Faqiong Zhou, Shangzhou Chen, Yang Zhang. Selenium levels and skin diseases: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2020 May 20 ;62:126548. Epub 2020 May 20. PMID: 32497930

[11] Hristina Kocic, Giovanni Damiani, Bojana Stamenkovic, Michael Tirant, Andrija Jovic, Danica Tiodorovic, Ketty Peris. Dietary compounds as potential modulators of microRNA expression in psoriasis. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2019 ; doi: 10:2040622319864805. Epub 2019 Aug 7. PMID: 31431821.

[12] Janelle R Ricketts, Marti J Rothe, Jane M Grant-Kels. Nutrition and psoriasis. Clin Dermatol. 2010 Nov-Dec;28(6):615-26. PMID: 21034986.

[15] L Juhlin, L E Edqvist, L G Ekman, K Ljunghall, M Olsson. Blood glutathione-peroxidase levels in skin diseases: effect of selenium and vitamin E treatment. Acta Derm Venereol. 1982 ;62(3):211-4. PMID: 6179360

[16] Meng Chen, Yongye Sun, Yili Wu. Lower circulating zinc and selenium levels are associated with an increased risk of asthma: evidence from a meta-analysis. Public Health Nutr. 2019 Nov 5:1-8. Epub 2019 Nov 5. PMID: 31685060

[17] Norton RL, Hoffmann PR. Selenium and asthma. Mol Aspects Med. 2012 Feb;33(1):98-106. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2011.10.003 Epub 2011 Oct 15. PMID: 22024250; PMCID: PMC3246085.

[18] Riedl MA, Nel AE. Importance of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis and treatment of asthmaCurr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008;8(1):49-56. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3282f3d913, PMID: 18188018

[19] Chih-Hung Guo, Po-Jen Liu, Simon Hsia, Chia-Ju Chuang, Pei-Chung Chen. Role of Certain Trace Minerals in Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, CD4/CD8 Lymphocyte Ratios and Lung Function in Asthmatic Patients, Ann Clin Biochem. 2011 Jul;48(Pt 4):344-51. PMID: 21546427, doi: 10.1258/acb.2011.010266. Epub 2011 May 5.

[21] Liliana R Santos, Celestino Neves, Miguel Melo, Paula Soares. Selenium and Selenoproteins in Immune Mediated Thyroid Disorders. Diagnostics (Basel). 2018 Oct 4 ;8(4). Epub 2018 Oct 4. PMID: 30287753

[22] Qian Wu, Margaret P Rayman, Hongjun Lv, Lutz Schomburg, Bo Cui, Chuqi Gao, Pu Chen, Guihua Zhuang, Zhenan Zhang, Xiaogang Peng, Hua Li, Yang Zhao, Xiaohong He, Gaoyuan Zeng, Fei Qin, Peng Hou, Bingying Shi. Low population selenium status is associated with increased prevalence of thyroid disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Aug 25, doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-2222, Epub 2015 Aug 25. PMID: 26305620.

[23] Marcocci C, Kahaly GJ, Krassas GE, Bartalena L, Prummel M, Stahl M, et al. Selenium and the course of mild Graves' orbitopathy. N Engl J Med 2011;364:1920-31. PMID: 21591944, doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1012985

[25] Wei J, Zeng C, Gong QY, Li XX, Lei GH, Yang TB. Associations between Dietary Antioxidant Intake and Metabolic Syndrome. PLoS One. 2015 Jun 22;10(6):e0130876. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130876. PMID: 26098747; PMCID: PMC4476578.

[26] Margaret P Rayman, Saverio Stranges, Bruce A Griffin, Roberto Pastor-Barriuso, Eliseo Guallar Effect of Supplementation With High-Selenium Yeast on Plasma Lipids: A Randomized Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2011 May 17; 154(10): 656-665. DOI: 10.7326/0003-4819-154-10-201105170-00005. PMID: 21576533.

[28] Du Xiubo, Wang Chao, Liu Qiong. Potential Roles of Selenium and Selenoproteins in the Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease. Curr Top Med Chem. 2015 Aug 26. Epub 2015 Aug 26. PMID: 26311427

[29] Guo-Li Song, Chen Chen, Qiu-Yan Wu, Zhong-Hao Zhang, Rui Zheng, Yao Chen, Shi-Zheng Jia, Jia-Zuan Ni. Selenium-enriched yeast inhibitedβ-amyloid production and modulated autophagy in a triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Metallomics. 2018 Jul 25. Epub 2018 Jul 25. PMID: 30043821

[30] Ann Van der Jeugd, Arnaldo Parra-Damas, Raquel Baeta-Corral, Carlos M Soto-Faguás, Tariq Ahmed, Frank M LaFerla, Lydia Giménez-Llort, Rudi D'Hooge, Carlos A Saura. Reversal of memory and neuropsychiatric symptoms and reduced tau pathology by selenium in 3xTg-AD mice. Sci Rep. 2018 Apr 24 ;8(1):6431. Epub 2018 Apr 24. PMID: 29691439

[31] Kadir Demirci, Mustafa Nazıroğlu, İshak Suat Övey, Hasan Balaban. Selenium attenuates apoptosis, inflammation and oxidative stress in the blood and brain of aged rats with scopolamine-induced dementia. Metab Brain Dis. 2016 Sep 15. Epub 2016 Sep 15. PMID: 27631101

[32] Omid Reza Tamtaji, Reza Heidari-Soureshjani, Naghmeh Mirhosseini, Ebrahim Kouchaki, Fereshteh Bahmani, Esmat Aghadavod, Maryam Tajabadi-Ebrahimi, Zatollah Asemi. Probiotic and selenium co-supplementation, and the effects on clinical, metabolic and genetic status in Alzheimer's disease: A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2018 Dec 10. Epub 2018 Dec 10. PMID: 30642737

[33] Holger Steinbrenner, Lars-Oliver Klotz. Selenium and zinc: "antioxidants" for healthy aging? Z Gerontol Geriatr. 2020 May 28. Epub 2020 May 28. PMID: 32468295

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