Selenium is a trace element that is essential for the human body. But how much selenium do we really need and where do we get it from? Below you will learn why selenium is important, how to recognize a selenium deficiency and how you can meet your needs. We also look at how selenium strengthens the immune system and how it helps during pregnancy and during sports.
Definition of selenium
Selenium is a naturally occurring trace element that is essential for human health. The body requires very small amounts of selenium, but it is essential for the proper functioning of many important processes.
Selenium is found in many foods. Most foods are low in selenium, but there are some that are considered particularly rich in selenium. This includes
- nuts and seeds
- whole grain products
Selenium is also found in many dietary supplements, e.g. B. as selenomethionine or as organic selenium compounds.
Selenium is involved in numerous metabolic processes, including the function and regulation of the immune system. It also helps protect cells from oxidative stress and supports normal thyroid function. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), selenium also contributes to normal sperm and fertility quality."
Why is selenium important for the body?
Selenium is essential for the human organism. It has an important function as an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative stress. As a component of some enzymes, it is essential for their normal function.
Selenium is an important component of the immune system and contributes to the maintenance of normal thyroid function. It also plays an important role in defending against cell damage and contributes to normal sperm formation.
In summary, it can be said that selenium
- acts as an antioxidant and protects against oxidative stress
- is part of enzymes
- supports the immune system
- contributes to the maintenance of normal thyroid function
- helps ward off cell damage
- contributes to normal sperm formation
- plays a role in maintaining normal hair, nails and skin (according to EFSA).
How much selenium does the body need?
The human body needs a certain amount of selenium every day. According to the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), the recommended daily dose is 65 µg per day for men and 55 µg per day for women. The selenium requirement depends, among other things, on age. Babies need more selenium than adults. A healthy and balanced diet helps to absorb the optimal amount of selenium.
Selenium can be ingested through various foods. The table below shows some examples of foods high in selenium:
Selenium content (in µg per 100 g)
It is very important not to exceed the recommended amounts of selenium. Overdosing can lead to health problems. The EFSA therefore recommends limiting the intake of dietary supplements with selenium to 200 µg per day.
II. Selenium deficiency
Selenium deficiency is a global problem that occurs primarily in low-income and nutritionally deficient countries. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), a selenium deficiency in humans can lead to disorders of the immune system, fertility, pregnancy and other bodily functions. In Europe, the prevalence of selenium deficiency ranges from 0.1 to 3.2% of the population.
The risk of selenium deficiency can be associated with the following factors:
- Vegetarian/vegan diet
- alcohol consumption
- elderly people
- people under stress
- people with certain diseases
- People who take antibiotics for a long time
A selenium deficiency can cause various symptoms, including:
- sleep disorders
- weakened immune system
- concentration problems
- memory and learning difficulties
- Irregular heartbeat
To treat a selenium deficiency, it is necessary to check the levels of calcium and vitamin E in the body. The EFSA states that a daily intake of 10 µg selenium in adults ensures a normal function of the immune system and the maintenance of normal nails and hair.
Causes of selenium deficiency
Selenium deficiency is a common problem in many parts of the world. Selenium deficiency can have a number of negative health effects, including an increased risk of certain diseases. The most common causes of selenium deficiency are
- Inadequate nutrition : Selenium is found in many foods, especially nuts, seeds, meat and seafood, but also in some vegetables. It is therefore important to ensure a balanced diet in order to avoid a deficiency in this important trace element.
- Poor Soil Quality : Selenium is found in low levels in most soils. However, in regions with poor soil quality, selenium levels are significantly lower, which can result in foods grown there containing only small amounts of selenium.
- Inadequate intake : Selenium is not well absorbed by the body, and most people get insufficient selenium from their diet. Certain diseases can also impair the absorption of selenium, e.g. B. certain stomach and intestinal diseases.
- High Levels of Undesirable Substances : Certain substances such as mercury, lead, cadmium and other heavy metals compete directly with selenium and can interfere with the trace element's absorption in the body.
Symptoms of selenium deficiency
Selenium deficiency can lead to a number of health problems. Most symptoms occur when the body suffers from a selenium deficiency for a long period of time. These symptoms can range from minor to life-threatening. Some of the known symptoms of selenium deficiency are
- muscle weakness
- thyroid disorders
- growth disorders
- hair and nail problems
There is evidence that a selenium deficiency can also have more serious consequences such as cardiac arrhythmias and neurological disorders. In some cases, a selenium deficiency can even lead to cardiomyopathies (heart muscle weakness).
People suffering from an autoimmune disease have an increased risk of selenium deficiency. A selenium deficiency can increase the intensity of the disease symptoms and impair the effectiveness of autoimmune therapies.
There is evidence that adequate selenium intake helps reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer and certain forms of kidney cancer. However, a persistent selenium deficiency increases the risk of developing bladder cancer.
Dietary supplements recognized by EFSA can help maintain selenium levels in the body and reduce the health risks of selenium deficiency.
Who is particularly at risk of developing selenium deficiency?
Some populations are more prone to selenium deficiency than others. This includes pregnant women, infants, the elderly, people with kidney dysfunction and people on a selenium-deficient diet. Pregnant women can develop a selenium deficiency, as the fetus has the greatest need for selenium, which can lead to a deficiency of this vital trace element in the mother. Babies need a lot of selenium for their development.
Older people are also more prone to selenium deficiency because their bodies can no longer absorb nutrients as well. People with impaired kidney function can also suffer from a deficiency, as the kidneys play an important role in the absorption and excretion of nutrients.
People who eat a selenium-poor diet can also suffer from a deficiency because they consume too little selenium. Selenium deficiency can be caused by unbalanced diet, bad eating habits, poor nutrient absorption, cooking and food processing.
Selenium deficiency can also be caused by certain diseases and medications. These include chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism, diabetes or asthma, taking certain medications that lower the selenium level in the body, and poor selenium intake from food.
III. selenium sources
Selenium can be obtained from a variety of foods including fish, meat, eggs, nuts, grains and beans. It's also found in some vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and beans.
The table below lists some common foods that are rich in selenium.
Selenium content (mcg/100 g)
Selenium can also be obtained through dietary supplements. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the following health claims can be made: "A daily intake of 20-25 mcg selenium contributes to normal sperm formation".
Selenium rich foods
Selenium is an essential trace element that is vital for the body. In order to get the daily required amount of selenium, it is important that our diet includes a range of selenium-rich foods.
Many foods contain selenium. Fish, seafood, meat and poultry are rich in selenium. Some examples are clams, shrimp, salmon, squid, beef tenderloin, chicken and turkey breast. A 100g serving of salmon provides about 70-90 μg of selenium, while a 100g serving of beef tenderloin provides about 55-80 μg of selenium.
Selenium is also found naturally in many plant foods, which are also rich in selenium. Broccoli, parsley, asparagus, spinach, and garlic are good sources of this trace element. A medium serving of spinach (100 g) provides about 25 to 50 μg of selenium, and a medium serving of broccoli about 20 to 40 μg.
Some grain products are also rich in selenium. Whole grains like wheat, rice, corn, and oatmeal all contain some amount of selenium. A medium portion of rice (100g) provides about 10 to 20 μg of selenium, while a medium portion of oatmeal provides about 30 to 50 μg of selenium.
Organic forms of selenium that are available as dietary supplements are also a good way to meet the recommended daily allowance. Most supplements contain about 50 to 200 μg of selenium per serving.
How much selenium is in different foods?
Selenium is an essential trace element that is found in many foods. The amount of selenium in food varies depending on how it is stored, grown or manufactured. The foods highest in selenium include fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, meat, grains, and dairy products.
The following table provides an overview of the selenium content of some selected foods:
- Fish - One of the foods with the highest selenium content is salmon with 45 mcg per 100 g. Tuna and mackerel also contain larger amounts of selenium, at 34 µg per 100 g.
- Seafood - Shellfish, mussels and squid contain high amounts of selenium, up to 34 mcg per 100 g.
- Poultry - Poultry contains about 17 mcg per 100 g.
- Eggs - Eggs are another excellent source of selenium at 10-18 µg per 100 g.
- Meat - Meat contains 4-14 µg per 100 g more selenium than plant foods.
- Grain products - Grain products such as wheat or oats contain 13-17 µg per 100 g.
- Dairy products - Dairy products are among the poorest in selenium at 0.1-1.0 µg per 100 g.
The European health authority EFSA has determined that "an average daily intake of 60-90 µg selenium per day is sufficient for the general population".
Selenium Supplements: Useful or Not?
Selenium is an essential trace element that is necessary for the functioning of many important bodily processes. In order to supply the body with sufficient selenium, selenium preparations are often offered as dietary supplements. But do they really make sense?
In order to be able to assess the effectiveness of selenium supplements, one must first know what types of supplements there are. Among other things, there are organic and inorganic forms of selenium, each with different mechanisms of action. Organic forms such as selenomethionine are the most readily available forms of the element and are more easily absorbed by the body than inorganic forms such as selenium sulfide.
It is important to note that the effectiveness of selenium supplements depends on the dosage and the type of supplement. An overdose of selenium can have harmful effects, so supplements should only be taken under medical supervision.
It is also believed that taking selenium supplements regularly has some specific health benefits such as: B:
- Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
- reducing the risk of cancer
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering blood sugar levels
- Reducing the risk of Alzheimer's
However, most of these potential benefits can only be expected if the supplements are taken in the correct dosage and form. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor before taking selenium supplements.
IV. Selenium and Health
Selenium is a vital trace element. It has important functions in the body and contributes to normal spermatogenesis and the normal functioning of the immune system.
The human body needs 30 to 50 micrograms of selenium every day. However, it is difficult to get the required amount of selenium from the normal diet. Studies have shown that many people in Germany have a selenium deficiency.
Some studies have shown positive health effects of selenium. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has confirmed the following health claims for selenium:
- Selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis.
- Selenium contributes to the maintenance of normal hair and nails.
- Selenium contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.
It is important not to exceed the recommended daily dose. Excessive doses can be toxic.
selenium and cancer
Selenium is considered one of the most important substances to protect the body from cancer. It is one of the few trace elements whose effect on possible cancer diseases has been scientifically examined. In animal and cell experiments with high concentrations of the trace element, a cancer-protective effect could be demonstrated.
In addition, it has been shown that a lack of selenium can increase the risk of cancer. This was investigated in a large European study, in which low selenium levels were associated with changes in the immune system that eventually led to an increased risk of cancer.
However, there is still insufficient scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that a certain amount of selenium can prevent cancer. Therefore, it is important that selenium intake - either through diet or supplements - remains at healthy levels.
When assessing the effect of selenium on cancer prevention, it must be borne in mind that this effect can also be influenced by other factors such as a healthy diet and lifestyle. Some studies have shown that combining selenium with other nutrients, such as vitamin A , vitamin C , and zinc, may have protective effects against certain types of cancer.
Selenium and Thyroid Function
The role of selenium in the human body is diverse. Above all, it is an essential trace element for the function of the thyroid gland. Selenium is a component of the thyroid hormone thyroxine, which regulates the body's metabolic functions. It helps the body break down, produce and regulate excess hormones.
If the body is not sufficiently supplied with selenium, the thyroid gland may become underactive. This, in turn, can have various effects on the body, such as fatigue, weight gain, constipation, muscle weakness, and other symptoms.
uptake of selenium
It is recommended that adults consume around 55 to 75 micrograms of selenium per day to ensure adequate supplies. A healthy, varied diet can increase selenium absorption. Selenium-rich foods include
- Fish (e.g. tuna, mackerel)
- Poultry (e.g. turkey, chicken breast)
- Seafood (e.g. shrimp, mussels)
- Whole grain products (e.g. millet, oatmeal)
- Nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts)
- Seeds (e.g. flaxseed, sesame)
- Legumes (e.g. lentils, beans)
- Vegetables (e.g. spinach, broccoli)
- Dairy products (e.g. yoghurt, cheese)
Selenium and cardiovascular disease
There is a close connection between selenium and cardiovascular diseases. Selenium helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke. It normalizes cholesterol levels and supports the heart muscle pump.
The main effects of selenium on the cardiovascular system are
- Reducing atherosclerosis and therefore the risk of heart disease
- Supporting cardiac enzymes that facilitate the conversion of cholesterol to galactose and help improve blood flow
- Supporting fat metabolism and lowering LDL cholesterol levels
- Support of energy metabolism and increase of energy production
- Supporting muscle contraction and improving the pumping function of the heart
- Helping blood to clot and reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack
- Supporting cell functions and reducing the risk of heart disease
- Support of homeostasis (stability of the organism) and improvement of the oxygen circulation
- Protection against oxidative damage that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Because of these multiple benefits, it is not surprising that selenium is considered an essential dietary supplement for the cardiovascular system.
Selenium and the immune system
Selenium is an essential trace element that is essential for a well-functioning immune system. A lack of selenium can lead to a weakened immune system and an increased risk of infection. Various studies have examined and confirmed the importance of selenium for the immune system.
A study on mice showed that a selenium deficiency weakens the immune system. The animals showed a reduced number of white blood cells, which indicates a weakened immune system. Another study in pigs showed that selenium deficiency led to a decrease in IgA and IgG antibodies in the blood, while increased selenium intake led to an increase in antibodies.
Further studies have shown that selenium is linked to immune system function. A double-blind study showed that a daily supplementation of 100 µg selenium (as selenium methionine) enhanced the participants' immune response to influenza A virus antigens.
Several clinical studies also support the connection between selenium and the immune system. A study in people over the age of 65 showed that daily supplementation of 200 mcg of selenium (in the form of selenium yeast) increased white blood cell counts and enhanced the antibody IgG response to influenza viruses. Further studies have shown that a daily supplement of 200 mcg of selenium can boost the immune system and increase white blood cell count. These results suggest that adequate selenium intake is important to maintain a healthy immune system.
V. Selenium and pregnancy
Selenium is an essential trace element that is very important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is necessary for the baby's development as it supports the normal functioning of the immune system and protects cells from oxidative damage. It also plays a role in the maturation of the placenta and the function of labor.
It is recommended that expectant mothers consume more selenium during pregnancy. The daily requirement of selenium during pregnancy is 50-60 µg per day. However, there is no consensus on whether taking selenium supplements is necessary during pregnancy.
Benefits of Selenium in Pregnancy
- Supporting the normal function of the immune system
- Protection of cells from oxidative damage
- Normalizes the maturation of the placenta
- normalization of labour
- Supporting fetoplacental perfusion
EFSA considers the following statements on selenium and pregnancy to be reliable:
- Selenium contributes to normal sperm production in men".
- Selenium contributes to the normal development of the child during pregnancy".
How much selenium do pregnant women need?
Pregnant women have an increased need for selenium. In order to provide your body and that of the unborn child with sufficient amounts of the trace element, regular intake is necessary. Due to the changed hormonal balance and the increased need for micronutrients during pregnancy, it is important to ensure an adequate selenium intake.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), pregnant women should consume at least 55 micrograms (µg) of selenium per day. Foods high in selenium include:
- Fish (mackerel, tuna, cod)
- Seafood (crab, lobster, clams)
- Nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts)
- whole grain products
Dietary supplements rich in selenium are also recommended, e.g. B. easily digestible organic selenium compounds that provide the mineral in a natural way.
With regular selenium intake, pregnant women can expect the following health benefits:
- Support of the immune system
- Protection against oxidative stress
- Improving fertility
- Cell growth support
- Supporting the production of thyroid hormones and the brain development of the unborn child.
Selenium deficiency during pregnancy: consequences for the child
The trace element selenium is an essential micronutrient that is essential for the healthy development of the unborn child. A selenium deficiency during pregnancy can have serious consequences for the fetus. In order to ensure the health of the child, an adequate selenium intake during pregnancy is of crucial importance.
The main consequences of a selenium deficiency during pregnancy are
- Decreased immune function : A selenium deficiency can lead to decreased immune function, increasing the risk of infection.
- Developmental delays : A selenium deficiency can delay the development of the unborn child and affect the body weight of the child.
- Risk of miscarriage and premature birth : Studies have shown that a selenium deficiency during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth.
- Growth disorders : A selenium deficiency can lead to growth disorders and congenital malformations.
- Neuropsychological Disorders : A selenium deficiency can also affect the baby's neuropsychological well-being, including a reduced ability to concentrate.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has stated that "adequate selenium intake during pregnancy plays an important role in the health of the child". Pregnant women should therefore eat a balanced diet with lots of selenium-rich foods such as fish, meat, eggs and whole grain products. Taking a balanced multivitamin and mineral supplement can also help ensure adequate selenium intake.
Selenium supplementation during pregnancy: yes or no?
Selenium is an essential trace element that is essential for the normal functioning of the human body. It plays an important role in the development and functioning of the immune system. Some studies have shown that additional selenium supplementation during pregnancy can have a beneficial effect on fetal development. Nevertheless, pregnant women should only consider selenium supplementation after consulting their doctor.
How does selenium affect pregnancy?
Selenium is an essential trace element that is essential for the normal functioning of the human body. Studies indicate that adequate selenium intake during pregnancy is important for fetal development. An undersupply can lead to poorer development of the child's immune system, which means an increased risk of infection and allergies for infants and children.
Selenium also has a positive impact on the placental wall, which protects the fetal body from pollutants and other harmful substances. Selenium can also reduce the accumulation of toxins in the placenta, thus protecting the fetus from their harmful effects.
What are the health benefits of selenium supplementation during pregnancy?
Studies suggest that additional selenium supplementation during pregnancy can have many health benefits. These include improved development of the child's immune system, an increased protective effect of the placenta wall and a reduced risk of infection and allergies in infants and children. In addition, selenium supplementation during pregnancy can increase the levels of certain nutrients in the fetus' body and support healthy nervous system development.
VI. selenium and sports
Selenium plays an important role in the body's ability to perform and adapt to strenuous exercise requirements. It supports the development and maintenance of normal physical performance. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), selenium contributes to the maintenance of a normal function of the immune system".
Athletes can expect some specific benefits from selenium such as: B:
- Fatigue and Exertion Support: Selenium is useful to support strenuous athletic performance by supporting muscular endurance and muscle cohesion during exercise.
- Fast muscle building: By supporting the immune system, selenium helps to get the body in shape and accelerate muscle building.
- Less muscle damage: Selenium prevents muscle damage by increasing muscle elasticity.
- Increased Muscle Performance: Selenium helps strengthen muscles and increase muscle performance by promoting muscle activity and muscle strength.
By maintaining a normal immune system, improving muscle performance and reducing muscle damage, selenium helps athletes increase their training intensity.
Selenium and muscle building
Selenium is an essential trace element that plays an important role in muscle building. It is a component of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which helps prevent free radical damage in the body. Selenium is also involved in the synthesis of new proteins that are essential for muscle building.
Selenium can be obtained through dietary supplements. Increasing dietary selenium intake has been shown to promote muscle growth and help reduce muscle pain and spasms. Eating foods like fish, sunflower seeds, whole grains, wheat germ, chicken, eggs, and lean beef are good ways to increase selenium levels.
A study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has shown that an adequate supply of selenium in the body can lead to improved muscle composition and increased muscle strength.
It is important to meet the daily requirement of selenium to reap all of the health benefits. The daily requirement for adults is 55 μg per day.
The following foods contain significant amounts of selenium:
- sunflower seeds
- whole grains
- wheat germ
- Lean beef
selenium and endurance
Selenium is an essential trace element that the body needs to maintain a normal immune system and normal thyroid function. It can also help increase endurance and performance during physical activity.
Studies show that a selenium deficiency impairs physical performance. A healthy selenium level in the body is important to support training and improve endurance. Adequate selenium intake can help increase endurance and physical performance.
Some studies have shown that increased selenium intake can significantly improve endurance. A 2008 study showed that endurance athletes who took 250 mcg of selenium supplements daily had higher aerobic capacity and endurance than those who did not take selenium.
Further studies confirm that increased selenium intake in humans
- Increase in endurance during physical exertion
- increase in muscle strength
- improve athletic performance
- Increasing the ability to regenerate
- increase in immunity
Selenium and regeneration
Selenium is an essential nutrient necessary for a healthy immune system and proper body recovery. It can reduce inflammation and increase the production of antioxidants that protect the body from harmful free radicals.
Selenium is particularly important for people who engage in intense physical activity. The body regenerates faster when there is enough selenium in the blood. As a result of this selenium enrichment (compared to the fasting state), the regeneration time can be significantly reduced.
It is believed that high levels of selenium can help relieve muscle spasms and muscle pain, allowing for faster, more effective training. In addition, selenium can support muscle building and improve muscle regeneration during intensive training.
Selenium also helps prevent disease. It improves the functioning of the immune system by fighting infectious and bacterial diseases, thus reducing the risk of infection. Selenium may also lower the risk of cancer.
The following health effects of selenium have been confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):
- Selenium contributes to normal sperm formation and the maintenance of normal thyroid function.
- It protects the cells from oxidative stress.
- It contributes to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
- It supports the immune system and thus helps to prevent infections.
In this article we got a detailed insight into the trace element selenium. We have looked at the various functions that selenium performs in the body and the various sources of this vital element. We also looked at the possible consequences of selenium deficiency and how selenium affects various aspects of our health. We have also seen the role selenium plays in pregnancy and exercise.
From all this it can be concluded that selenium is an essential trace element that must be present in sufficient quantities in the body in order to maintain general well-being. Therefore, a balanced, varied and selenium-rich diet is important to protect yourself effectively against health problems. If you still suffer from a selenium deficiency, you can have your doctor prescribe a suitable selenium supplement.
Frequently asked questions about selenium
1. What is selenium and what is it used for?
Selenium is a chemical element used in electronics, the glass industry, and as a dietary supplement.
2. What are the health benefits of taking selenium?
Selenium may help boost the immune system, regulate metabolism, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
3. How Much Selenium Should I Consume Daily?
The recommended daily dose for adults is around 55 micrograms per day, but this can vary depending on age, gender and health status.
4. Which foods contain a lot of selenium?
Selenium-rich foods include Brazil nuts, fish, eggs, meat, and whole grains.
5. Can an overdose of selenium be dangerous?
Yes, an overdose of selenium can lead to symptoms of toxicity such as nausea, vomiting and hair loss. It is important not to exceed the recommended daily dose.
6. How can I make sure I'm getting enough selenium?
A balanced diet with selenium-rich foods can help meet the need. If necessary, dietary supplements can also be taken in consultation with a doctor or nutritionist.
7. Can selenium also be used externally?
Yes, selenium can also be used externally, for example in the form of shampoos or creams to treat skin problems such as psoriasis or eczema.
8. Is selenium also suitable for vegans?
Yes, there are also plant-based sources of selenium such as Brazil nuts, legumes and whole grains that are suitable for vegans.
9. Can selenium also be taken during pregnancy?
Yes, selenium is also important for the health of mother and child during pregnancy. However, it is important not to exceed the recommended daily dose and to consult a doctor before taking.
10. Can selenium be taken for thyroid problems?
Yes, selenium can be taken for thyroid problems like Hashimoto's thyroiditis or Graves' disease as it can help regulate thyroid function. However, it is important to consult a doctor before taking it.