SELENIUM is known for its cancer-combating properties, and an Australian study has shown how it could dramatically cut the incidence of bowel cancer. The mineral is found in many foods including seafood, grains and eggs, and it is known to boost the body’s antioxidant processes to play a range of other beneficial roles. Professor Graeme Young says one such function is enhancing the triggering of “apoptosis” – a vital process that allows cells to kill themselves if they detect an error. “When a cell realises that something has gone wrong it can trigger its own death so the cell doesn’t become a problem,” said Prof Young, head of the Flinders Centre for Cancer Prevention and Control at Adelaide’s Flinders University. “What the selenium does is just make the cell better at perceiving that it has to kill itself.” When Prof Young says problem he means cancer. Tumours are masses of these rogue cells that no longer perform their ordinary function in the body and have also lost the ability to kill themselves off. Selenium had yet another beneficial role, Prof Young said, as it was also thought to reduce damage to DNA-making cells less prone to “misbehaving” in the first place. “When we put it all together, selenium looks a potentially useful agent when it comes to reducing our risk of getting a range of different cancers,” he said. A study last year by Prof Young showed that mice fed extra selenium had a 60 per cent reduced incidence of bowel cancer. A follow-up study of 23 healthy people, aged over 50 who had extra selenium added to their daily milk, indicated a similar protective effect. Both the mice and the human study participants had elevated levels of the powerful antioxidant (called GPx-2) in their gut, which Prof Young said was linked to their increased selenium intake.
“We think that activated GPx-2 in the bowel is what reduces the chance of getting cancer,” he said. Prof Young will present the results of this latest study at an expert summit – Australian Gastroenterology Week – which is underway in Sydney. The recommended daily intake of selenium is 50 micrograms. “(But) to get the benefit of protecting you against cancer it seems that you probably have to get close to 150 micrograms,” Prof Young said, adding this was the equivalent of about four brazil nuts. He also warned that in higher doses, selenium can be toxic.”Our concern is that people often think that if a little bit of something is good for you, you should take a lot of it,” Prof Young said. “You could end up with selenium toxicity … your hair falls our, your nails fall out, you get kidney problems and you can potentially get problems with glucose and insulin control too.” news from theaustralian.news.com.au – Selenium is a mineral used by the body to make selenoproteins, the antioxidant properties of which help prevent the damage caused by free radicals. Studies have also indicated that they may play a role in overall immune system function and general health. Selenium deficiency occurs in populations who live in areas in which the soil is low in selenium, and also can be the result of disease, including some gastrointestinal disorders. selenium supplements can help combat the effects of a selenium deficiency, and can also help promote overall good health. Since selenium is found naturally, in varying amounts, in soil, the mineral can be found in many plant foods. Brazil nuts, for example, are extremely rich in selenium, as are some whole grains and cereals.
It can also be found in some meats and seafood and in trace amounts in drinking water. The organic, and generally considered to be the most easily absorbed form of selenium, is selenomethionine.The importance of selenium to human health. The essential trace mineral, selenium, is of fundamental importance to human health. As a constituent of selenoproteins, selenium has structural and enzymic roles, in the latter context being best-known as an antioxidant and catalyst for the production of active thyroid hormone. Selenium is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, and appears to be a key nutrient in counteracting the development of virulence and inhibiting HIV progression to AIDS. It is required for sperm motility and may reduce the risk of miscarriage. Deficiency has been linked to adverse mood states. Findings have been equivocal in linking selenium to cardiovascular disease risk although other conditions involving oxidative stress and inflammation have shown benefits of a higher selenium status. An elevated selenium intake may be associated with reduced cancer risk. Large clinical trials are now planned to confirm or refute this hypothesis. In the context of these health effects, low or diminishing selenium status in some parts of the world, notably in some European countries, is giving cause for concern.
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