What to Know About the Anti-Aging Properties of Selenium

Selenium is a trace element, which means the body only needs it in very small amounts. It occurs naturally in many foods and is also available as a dietary supplement.

Most of the selenium in our diet is stored in muscle tissue, although the thyroid is the organ with the highest concentration.

Selenium is a important element enzymes and proteins – called selenoproteins – that play key roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism and DNA synthesis.

Selenoproteins also act as powerful antioxidants that help protect against harmful particles in the body called free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable atoms produced naturally in the body as a by-product of normal body functions. They cause damage to cell membranes and DNA. Over time, this can lead to inflammation, premature skin aging, and a host of age-related diseases.

Biological aging is a complex process that involves molecular damage, metabolic imbalance, changes in the immune system, and increased susceptibility to environmental stressors and disease.

According to a review as of 2018, selenium can fight against aging and prevent age-related health problems, such as tumors, cardiovascular diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders. Some researchers also believe that selenium can reduce chronic inflammationclosely related to aging.

According to some research, selenoproteins are primarily responsible for many of the health benefits of selenium.

For example, a 2021 review found that selenoproteins play a key role in controlling and eliminating misfolded proteins, which accumulate with age. Specialists note that the accumulation of misfolded proteins is a common feature of aging and age-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Experts also believe that selenium protects the skin against ultraviolet (UV) oxidative stress by stimulating the selenium-dependent antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and thioredoxin reductase (TDR). The TDR is located in the plasma membrane of epidermal keratinocytes. This can potentially combat skin aging caused by UV exposure.

Additionally, a more recent study from 2020 found that increased dietary intakes of selenium are associated with longer telomeres. This study found that every 20 microgram increase in dietary selenium was associated with 0.42% longer telomere length in participants over the age of 45.

Telomeres are “protective caps” at the ends of our chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age. Some experts consider telomere length to be an informative biomarker of aging.

Researchers also believe that higher levels of selenium are associated with longevity. The all-cause mortality of elderly people with low selenium levels is significantly higher than that of elderly people with high selenium levels.

For example, centenarians often seem to have higher systemic levels of selenium and iron while having lower copper levels than other older people.

However, it is important to note that the results remain contradictory and that more research on the subject is needed. Some studies — like the one mentioned above — suggest that low levels of selenium may actually promote longevity.

Selenium may also play an important role in protecting against certain age-related diseases.

heart disease

A meta-analysis found that people with lower selenium levels are at higher risk of coronary heart disease. On the other hand, a review trials that used only selenium supplementation for the primary prevention of heart disease found no statistically significant effect of selenium on fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events.

Although some research seems promising, there is not enough evidence to support the routine use of selenium supplements, especially in those who are getting enough food to prevent heart disease at this time.


There is a notion that selenium may play a role in cancer prevention through its ability to protect cells against DNA damage and mutations. However, the evidence on this remains conflicting.

According to a 2018 review out of 83 studies, no strong research suggests that selenium from diet or supplements prevents cancer in humans.

In fact, some trials suggest that selenium supplementation may increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Thyroid disease

Selenium plays a key role in thyroid function. Some studies suggest that having optimal levels of selenium can protect against thyroid disease and maintain overall health.

However, according to the Dietary Supplements Officemore research is needed to determine if selenium supplements can treat or prevent thyroid disease.

Cognitive decline

Since serum selenium levels decline with age, marginal or deficient selenium concentrations may be associated with age-related disorders. decline in brain function. Experts believe this could be due to the antioxidant properties of selenium.

Nevertheless, more research is needed to determine whether selenium supplementation can help treat or prevent age-related cognitive decline in older adults.

Overall, research remains conflicting regarding selenium supplementation and selenium’s effect on aging.

According to the 2018 review discussed above, most studies indicate that selenium supplementation has anti-aging properties and prevents age-related diseases. However, further studies are needed to clarify its role.

Currently, there is no strong evidence that selenium supplementation benefits someone who is not at risk for deficiency.

Selenium deficiency is rare in the United States due to the selenium-rich soil found throughout North America.

Yet, certain groups are at risk for selenium deficiency, including:

  • people living with HIV
  • people with kidney failure requiring hemodialysis
  • people who live in low-selenium regions, including some European countries, Russia, and China.

The risk is further increased for people living in low-selenium areas who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Selenium deficiency can weaken the ability of cells to grow and divide, which can contribute to aging. It can also delay wound healing, cataract development and color loss.

Most adults need 55 micrograms (mcg) of selenium per day. Pregnant women, however, should consume 60 mcg. During lactation, selenium should increase further to 70 mcg.

Since the human body does not generate its own selenium, it is essential to obtain optimal amounts from the diet in order for it to benefit overall health.

Fortunately, selenium is found in a wide variety of foods that can be easily incorporated into a person’s diet.

Because selenium is found in soil, its levels in food will be based on the amount of selenium in the soil where the food was grown.

Brazil nuts, seafood, and organ meats are among the highest dietary sources of selenium. For example, one ounce of Brazil nuts has 544mcg of selenium or 989% of the recommended daily value (DV).

Here are other good dietary sources of selenium:

  • yellowfin tuna
  • halibut
  • sardines
  • beef
  • Ham
  • shrimp
  • cottage cheese
  • Brown rice
  • boiled eggs
  • whole wheat bread
  • beans/lentils.

If a person consistently exceeds the recommended upper limit of 400mcg of selenium through foods or supplements, it can have adverse health effects.

One of the first signs of excessive selenium intake is a garlic smell on the breath and a metallic taste in the mouth.

Other panels chronically high selenium intakes are:

  • loss or brittleness of hair and nails
  • skin lesions
  • mottled or decaying teeth
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • tired
  • irritability.

Taking megadoses of selenium can cause acute selenium toxicitywhich can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, severe gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms, kidney failure, heart failure and, in extreme cases, death.

Selenium is an important mineral that is needed for many important functions in the body. There is also limited evidence that it may provide several different health benefits.

Selenoproteins are powerful antioxidants that can help protect against free radical damage that leads to aging and age-related health issues.

Currently, there is no evidence that selenium supplements can slow or prevent aging. However, it is important to include optimal amounts of selenium in the diet because it plays a role in neutralizing free radicals and reducing inflammation, both of which can contribute to premature aging.

If you suspect you have a selenium deficiency or are considering taking selenium supplements, be sure to discuss this with your health care provider.

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