Selenium is an important mineral which is necessary for many processes in the body such as:
- Thyroid metabolism
- DNA synthesis
- Protection from infection
Deficiency of Selenium can have serious consequences and is known to affect around one billion people around the world.(1) It can cause various health problems.
A review, done in 2011 also suggests that there may be a link between selenium deficiency and a certain type of cancer.(2) It might also influence cognitive functioning.(3)
What is Selenium Deficiency?
Selenium deficiency refers to inadequate levels of this mineral in your system. This can happen due to a diminished level of selenium in the soil in which the food rich in selenium is grown.
The deficiency can alter the way certain selenium responsive enzymes such as iodothyronine deiodinases, glutathione peroxidize, and selenoproteins function.
How Does Selenium Deficiency Affect You?
The symptoms of selenium deficiency can surface in the form of anxiety, depressed mood, confusion, and muscle weakness. If ignored, these can lead to more complicated risks. The symptoms represent the serious ways in which the selenium deficiency affects us.
The deficiency of selenium in the body is linked with the disease of the heart muscle. It has also been linked with a form of cardiomyopathy.(4) A study done on mice showed that selenium supplementation could reduce cardiotoxicity.(5)
Selenium is known to combat oxidative stress and its deficiency can lead to an increase in oxidative stress thereby affecting the heart.(5) It is also linked with myocardial damage.
Affects The Endocrine System
The endocrine system regulates hormones that play a role in growth, development, and metabolism.
The thyroid contains the maximum concentration of selenium than all other organs of the body.
Deficiency of selenium can affect the thyroid hormone metabolism due to the linked iodothyronine deiodinases.
Selenium also controls the functioning of 30 different selenoproteins which exert multiple actions on the endocrine system. The selenoproteins play a role in modifying the cell function in the system.
Harm to the musculoskeletal System
Deficiency of selenium can cause musculoskeletal disease one of which is Kashin-Beck disease, which can lead to deformity of bones, cartilages, and joints.
Selenium, along with selenoproteins plays a role in muscular function. A study found that its deficiency caused several muscular diseases in both cattle and humans.(6)
Affects Neural Health
Selenium deficiency can lead to hostile behavior and depressive mood. It affects the turnover rate of certain neurotransmitters.(7)
Glutathione peroxidize is an important enzyme present in the brain, which is associated with selenium. This enzyme reduces the reactive oxygen species that can damage brain health. The deficiency of selenium can hamper the production of this enzyme and thereby affect brain health.
Hurt Immune System
Selenium deficiency can impair the immune system and increase the risk of infection.(8) It can also lead to the dysfunction of immune cells.
Affects the Reproductive System
The deficiency of selenium can cause infertility in males and can also lead to certain fertility issues in females.
Who Is At Risk Of Selenium Deficiency?
Along with low levels of selenium in soil, the following conditions can affect the risk of selenium deficiency:
- Undergoing dialysis, as kidney dialysis is known to remove some selenium from the blood.
- Suffering from HIV, as excessive selenium is lost through diarrhea.
- Digestive disorder such as Crohn’s disease
- Selenium deficiency is diagnosed by measuring glutathione peroxidize in the body.
It is treated by including selenium-rich foods in the diet. Selenium-rich foods include:
- Brazil nuts
- Yellowfin tuna
- Whole-wheat bread
Selenium deficiency is a rare condition but can lead to severe symptoms. It is essential to make sure that your body is getting enough of it.
If you suspect selenium deficiency, it is important to visit a doctor. He can include selenium supplements in the diet as per the requirements and instruct on the diet accordingly.