Selenium - protection for the body
Selenium is a vital trace element that is a component of numerous enzymes and is therefore involved in a variety of reactions in the body. Among other things, it is important for a functioning immune system, healthy hair and nails, the formation of thyroid hormones and sperm as well as protecting the organism from cell damage caused by free radicals. As selenium cannot be produced in the body itself, a sufficient selenium intake through food or food supplements is essential. You can find out all about the trace element and which forms of selenium are the best choice in vegan food supplements in our blog post.
Table of contents:
- How much selenium should I take every day?
- Selenium content in food
- What happens if you have a selenium deficiency?
- What happens if I consume too much selenium
- Selenium forms: Which combination makes sense?
How much selenium should I take every day?
Since 2015, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) has been providing concrete estimates for an appropriate intake (reference value) in the individual age groups, so there are no longer any ranges.
The reference values increase with age. For adolescents aged 15 and over and adults, the values differ according to gender. For men, the reference value for selenium intake is 70 µg per day, for women 60 µg per day. A higher reference value of 75 µg per day is given for breastfeeding women. Pregnant women have no additional selenium requirement.
Selenium content in food
Some plants can contain high levels of selenium. Brazil nuts, cabbage, onions, asparagus, mushrooms and pulses, for example, contain particularly high levels of the trace element. However, the concentration of selenium in plant-based foods depends on the selenium content of the soil. In Germany and the surrounding countries, the soil and therefore most plant-based foods are less rich in selenium than in the USA, for example.
In Finland, therefore, selenium-containing fertilisers have been added to the soil since 1984 in order to increase the selenium content in plant-based foods.
Those who choose organic products are generally better supplied with selenium. This is because organic products are not allowed to use sulphur-containing fertilisers and therefore sulphur is not absorbed by the plants instead of the trace element.
Important: The Brazil nut, which originates from South America, contains a particularly high level of selenium. This is because the Brazil nut tree has a very fine root network, which makes the absorption of nutrients from the soil particularly efficient. But be careful, radium is also deposited in the Brazil nut. You should not eat too many of these nuts due to their natural radioactivity. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection recommends a maximum of 2 Brazil nuts per day.What happens if you have a selenium deficiency?
A selenium deficiency leads, among other things, to disorders of the immune system, sperm production and impaired muscle function.
A nutritional supplement can be particularly useful for eating disorders and diseases that impair the absorption of nutrients in the intestine, for dialysis patients or those with an unbalanced diet. Studies also show that taking selenium supplements in doses of 200-300 μg daily can alleviate the inflammatory reactions in the thyroid gland in cases of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. In such cases, it is always best to consult the doctor treating you.
What happens if I take in too much selenium
If you consume too much selenium over a longer period of time (possible from around 300 µg daily), you can develop what is known as selenosis, which has serious side effects. The side effects range from neurological disorders, fatigue, joint pain and gastrointestinal problems to hair loss and impaired nail formation. Selenosis is often difficult to diagnose as the symptoms mentioned are very unspecific. Only breath smelling of garlic can be an indication, as selenium is exhaled in the form of methyl and dimethyl selenide when ingested in very high quantities. Acute poisoning (several grams a day) can lead to heart failure and therefore death.According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an intake of 300 µg selenium per day is without risk of side effects for adults. Most food supplements therefore contain a maximum of 200 µg selenium per day, as do our selenium tablets. So if you follow the instructions on the packaging, you should not expect any side effects.
Selenium forms: Which combination makes sense?
Selenium is found in food in particular as selenocysteine and selenomethionine. The former is mainly found in animal foods, the latter in plant foods. Selenocysteine is the biologically active form of selenium and is incorporated into selenium-containing proteins (the so-called selenoproteins) . The best-known selenoprotein is probably glutathione peroxidase, which plays an important role in protecting cell membranes from free radicals. In contrast, selenomethionine is incorporated unspecifically into proteins in place of methionine without performing any function. Selenomethionine is therefore regarded as a selenium storage form.Sodium selenite, unlike the two forms mentioned, is not bound to amino acids. It is therefore absorbed particularly quickly by the body, can be incorporated directly into selenoproteins and can develop its effect. Excess sodium selenite can be easily broken down and excreted via the respiratory tract or kidneys. There is therefore no risk of too much selenium accumulating in the body.A combinationof the two forms sodium selenite and selenomethionine, as in our selenium tablets, is therefore particularly beneficial. This provides you with a direct supply of the trace element and ensures that you have sufficient selenium over a longer period of time. In addition, a combination leads to particularly high bioavailability. Here is the link to our product.