Selenium is an essential trace element that is essential for our health. But despite its importance, many people suffer from a selenium deficiency. In this blog post, we explain the nature and effects of selenium, the symptoms and dangers of selenium deficiency, and examine why selenium deficiency is so common.
Selenium: nature and mode of action
Selenium is a chemical element that is found in small amounts in our bodies. It plays an important role in the functioning of our immune system, thyroid hormone production and defense against oxidative stress. Selenium is also involved in the formation of glutathione peroxidase, an important antioxidant that protects our cells from free radical damage.
Our bodies cannot produce selenium itself, so we must get it from food or supplements. Good dietary sources of selenium include nuts (especially Brazil nuts), fish, meat, poultry, grains and dairy products.
Symptoms and dangers of selenium deficiency
A selenium deficiency can lead to various symptoms, which can vary depending on the severity of the deficiency. The most common signs include:
- fatigue and weakness
- hair loss and brittle nails
- weakening of the immune system
- thyroid problems
- Cardiovascular problems
Long-term selenium deficiency can lead to serious health problems, such as impaired thyroid function, increased susceptibility to infections, and possibly even certain types of cancer.
Why is selenium deficiency so common?
The main reason for the prevalence of selenium deficiency is the lack of availability of selenium in the diet. The selenium concentration in food is highly dependent on the selenium concentration in the soil on which these foods are grown or the animals are fed. In some regions, such as Europe, parts of Africa and Asia, soil selenium levels are low, resulting in lower dietary selenium intake.
An unbalanced diet that is low in selenium-rich foods can also lead to selenium deficiency. Vegetarians and vegans may be at increased risk of selenium deficiency if their diet does not contain enough selenium-rich plant products.