The Significance of Selenium

Selenium is a trace element a Swedish chemist, Baron Jöns Jacob Berzelius, discovered almost 200 years ago. Today, modern scientists recognize it as “an essential mineral of pivotal importance for human health,” with anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-cancer potential.1

This mineral is also a powerful antioxidant, which plays itself out in many ways in regard to your health. You need only a little, though, to help keep your immune system and other functions humming along in proper order.

As much as your body requires selenium, taking the proper amount is crucial, because too much (such as 400 micrograms [mcg] daily) is associated with an increased risk of diabetes.2

However, unless you’re taking a supplement, it’s not likely you’ll overdose on selenium through the foods you eat. In fact, most people have trouble getting what they need, and as many as 1 billion people worldwide have a selenium deficiency.

Your chance of having a selenium deficiency is higher if you smoke cigarettes, take birth control pills, drink alcohol or have a condition that keeps you from absorbing the nutrients you need through the foods you eat.

Free Radicals: The ‘Bad Guys’ You Don’t Want Lurking in Your Body

As previously mentioned, one of the most important aspects of selenium is that it functions as a free-radical-zapping antioxidant. What does that mean, exactly?

When you take the word apart, “anti” is something you’re against and the word or phrase that follows it is the “bad guy.” In this case, what you’re against is oxidation because it can cause oxidative stress, which in turn can lead to tissue and organ damage. According to News-Medical:

“Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants”3

While “free radicals” may be another murky term, in short, free radicals and other assorted reactive oxygen species (ROS) are caused by either normal, internal metabolic processes or via outside influences such as nicotine and X-rays, or exposure to harmful chemicals like those used to kill mosquitoes, germs in your bathroom or weeds around your patio. One study explains:

“Free radicals, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species are generated by our body by various endogenous systems, exposure to different physiochemical conditions or pathological states. A balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary for proper physiological function.

If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensues. Free radicals thus adversely alter lipids, proteins and DNA and trigger a number of human diseases. Hence application of external source of antioxidants can assist in coping (with) oxidative stress.”4

It may be helpful to remember that free radicals can cause cell damage, and antioxidants fight free radicals.

Thyroid Function and the Role of Selenium

Your thyroid contains more selenium per gram of tissue than any other organ. One study explains:

“In 1957, studies investigating the requirements of nutrients in rodent diets revealed selenium (along with vitamin E) to be essential for prevention of liver necrosis. This led to the realization that selenium deficiency was responsible for a number of disorders observed previously …

(Selenium is) a contributing factor to Keshan disease in humans. Although toxicity at higher levels is still a serious problem, the importance of selenium as an essential micronutrient is now recognized.”5

Another study states that the value of selenium supplementation for people with autoimmune thyroid problems is becoming more understood and deficiency even appears to have an impact on the development of thyroid problems, possibly due to selenium’s ability to regulate the production of ROS and their metabolites.

In patients with Hashimoto’s disease, selenium supplementation “decreases anti-thyroid antibody levels and improves the ultrasound structure of the thyroid gland.”6 Further, studies for pregnant women regarding selenium say that supplementation significantly lowers the risk of postpartum thyroiditis.7

Selenium Strengths: Proper Amounts Cut Your Risk of Serious Disease

According to one meta-analysis:

“Selenium may play a beneficial role in multi-factorial illnesses with genetic and environmental linkages … Tissues particularly sensitive to changes in selenium supply include red blood cells, kidney and muscle.

The meta-analysis identified that for animal species selenium-enriched foods were more effective than selenomethionine at increasing (glutathione peroxidase) activity.”8

Immune Function

One of the most important functions of selenium is its ability to help your body fight disease. It raises your white blood cell count so you’re more able to resist infections.

An example is a study showing that selenium may help prevent a skin infection prevalent in people with lymphedema (swelling of the tissues in your arms and/or legs, usually as a result of chemotherapy or injury), and mycoplasma pneumonia, aka “walking” pneumonia.9

Cancer

In 2012, researchers reported that in areas of the world where selenium levels are naturally low, supplementing with selenium may be cancer protective.10 Study author and professor John Hesketh of Newcastle University, U.K., explained:

“The difficulty with selenium is that it’s a very narrow window between levels that are sub-optimal and those that would be considered toxic.

What our study shows is a possible link between higher levels of selenium and a decreased risk of colorectal cancer and suggests that increasing selenium intake may reduce the risk of this disease.”11

Heart Benefits

While it should be noted that some researchers say taking selenium supplements doesn’t appear to influence heart disease one way or the other or protect against heart attack, the University of Maryland Medical Center reported:

“Scientists know that low levels of selenium can contribute to heart failure, and being deficient in selenium seems to make atherosclerosis worse. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, happens when plaque builds up in arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.”12

Another study found that patients who took selenium supplements on a regular basis are “far less likely” to have another heart attack.13

Asthma

Asthma sufferers tend to have higher incidences of low selenium levels in their blood. Scientists found that diets containing high amounts of antioxidants are associated with lowered asthma prevalence in epidemiologic studies, as a report on accumulated data revealed:

“Accumulated data indicate that asthma is associated with reduced circulatory selenium (Se) … In the Se-supplemented group there were significant increases in serum Se

… Further, there was a significant clinical improvement in the Se-supplemented group, as compared with the placebo group.”14

Among 24 subjects with asthma, those who took supplements for 14 weeks had fewer symptoms than those taking a placebo, one study found. However, scientists agree that more studies are needed.15

Male infertility

Proteins found in sperm and involved in their formation are impacted by selenium and other antioxidants.

An interesting dichotomy, however, is that while studies show male infertility may be improved by the selenium in a man’s system, levels that are too high can inhibit the sperm’s ability to swim, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.16 Another study concluded:

“Selenium-enriched probiotics or inorganic selenium supplementation gave better results than probiotics supplementation and may be used to improve animal and human male fertility compromised by hyperlipidemia or obesity.”17

HIV/AIDS

Most of the African continent is selenium deficient. Simultaneously, AIDS is the most common cause of death. News-Medical, examining diseases impacted by selenium, reported:

“Taken as a whole, the geographical evidence, therefore, strongly suggests that selenium is protective against HIV infection.

Such a relationship is not limited to this virus. A frequently fatal illness of the heart, known as Keshan disease, is widespread in the population of the low selenium belt that crosses China from northeast to southwest. Keshan disease occurs only in individuals who are both selenium deficient and infected by the coxsackievirus”18

While the highest death rates from AIDS affect several of the southwestern-most portions of the continent, such as Botswana, Uganda and Kenya, “the prevalence rate for HIV infection still hovers at an unusually low 0.5 percent among women attending antenatal clinics” in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

The difference, scientists say, is that Senegal is located on the far western coast of Africa, where the soil is enriched with trace elements of selenium, contrasting the eastern portion, where the soil is devoid of the selenium that might help make a difference in this regard.

A similar situation is taking place in Finland where, to combat heart disease, legislation was passed in 1984 ordering sodium selenite to be added to all fertilizers throughout the country. Perhaps as a result, the country’s HIV rates are half that of other Scandinavian countries.

Selenium From Food: Seafood, Mushrooms and Meat

The best selenium sources from food include salmon (although only wild-caught Alaskan salmon is recommended due to widespread pollution in other fish), free-range organic turkey, lamb and grass-fed organic beef. You can also find high amounts of selenium in Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, onions and garlic and certain mushrooms.19 SFGate says:

“Mushrooms are one of the top vegetable sources for selenium. One cup of cooked shiitakes or white button mushrooms provides 19 micrograms of selenium, or 35 percent of the RDA. A more typical serving of ¼ cup provides less than 10 percent of the daily value.

A cup of cooked Lima or pinto beans averages 9 to 11 micrograms of the mineral, or about 15 to 20 percent of the RDA. Frozen cooked spinach, which is packed more tightly per cup than fresh cooked, provides 10 micrograms of selenium, or 18 percent of the RDA.”

It’s not just how much selenium is in your food, though, that determines how much you’re getting. It’s also about how much selenium is in the soil your food is grown in. Related factors include how much selenium was in the grass eaten by the cattle producing your grass-fed beef.

(Grass-fed beef, by the way, contains a healthy ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Naturally, you also want it to be free of hormones and antibiotics.)

mercola.com

 

Cold sores increase risk of dementia

DementiaInfection with herpes simplex virus increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Umeå University, Sweden, claim this in two studies in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

“Our results clearly show that there is a link between infections of herpes simplex virus and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This also means that we have new opportunities to develop treatment forms to stop the disease,” says Hugo Lövheim, associate professor at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Geriatric Medicine, Umeå University, who is one of the researchers behind the study.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common among the dementia diseases. In recent years research has increasingly indicated that there is a possible connection between infection with a common herpes virus, herpes simplex virus type 1, and Alzheimer’s disease. A majority of the population carries this virus. After the first infection the body carries the virus throughout your lifetime, and it can reactivate now and then and cause typical mouth ulcer. The hypothesis which links the herpes virus and Alzheimer’s disease is based on that a weakened immune system among the elderly creates opportunities for the virus to spread further to the brain. There this can in turn start the process which results in Alzheimer’s disease.

Hugo Lövheim and Fredrik Elgh, professor at the Department of Virology, have now confirmed this link in two large epidemiological studies. In one study, which is based on the Betula project, a study on aging, memory and dementia, the researchers show that a reactivated herpes infection doubled the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This study had 3,432 participants who were followed for 11.3 years on average. In another study, samples donated to the Medical Biobank at Umeå University from 360 people with Alzheimer’s disease were examined and as many matched people who had not developed dementia. The samples were taken on average 9.6 years before diagnosis. This study showed an approximately doubled risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease if the person was a carrier of the herpes virus.

“Something which makes this hypothesis very interesting is that now herpes infection can in principle be treated with antiviral agents. Therefore within a few years we hope to be able to start studies in which we will also try treating patients to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Hugo Lövheim.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Umeå universitet. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Hugo Lövheim, Jonathan Gilthorpe, Anders Johansson, Sture Eriksson, Göran Hallmans, Fredrik Elgh. Herpes simplex infection and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease—A nested case-control study. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.07.157
  2. Hugo Lövheim, Jonathan Gilthorpe, Rolf Adolfsson, Lars-Göran Nilsson, Fredrik Elgh. Reactivated herpes simplex infection increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.04.522

Source:  sciencedaily.com

Is there benefit to the Gardasil vaccine? Opponents say no.

GardasilThe human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is given to prevent the risk of cancer associated with HPV and is typically administered between the ages of eight and 26. Opponents argue that not only is the vaccine risky, but it is of no value.

The HPV vaccine effects are said to last for only about five years.

In a Health Impact News Daily Post dated today, Dr. Mark Flannery states that, “The problem with this vaccine is this: Even though it’s estimated 60 percent of women have the HPV virus, only 1-2 percent of the total population gets cervical cancer, and most of those women get the cancer in their 50s. If the vaccine only works for five years, is administered up to age 26, and yet most cases of cervical cancer happen to women in their 50s, the benefits of the Gardasil vaccine are questionable given the severe consequences it can cause.”

In Dr. Flannery’s practice, he has worked with a number of people injured by the Gardasil vaccine for HPV and, according to SaneVax, Inc., as of 2013 more than 32,000 people have reported adverse affects to the Gardasil vaccine, more than 145 have died, over 1,000 are permanently disabled, and more than 6,400 have yet to recover. Dr. Flannery writes, “The evidence shows HPV rarely proceeds to cancer and that very few women with HPV develop cervical cancer, as other risk factors are involved.”

More than 30 to 40 types of HPV are typically transmitted through sexual contact and infect the anogenital region. Some sexually transmitted HPV types may cause genital warts. PositiveSingles, a trusted online dating site for people with HPV, Syphilis and other STDs in the Unted States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Europe has information on the latest treatments for sexually transmitted infections as well as locations where someone with HPV or another STD can receive appropriate health care or find the support they need.

Source:  http://www.digitaljournal.com

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Has it finally happened? Bird Flu death in China sparks fear of human-transmitted H5N1 strain

Bird FluFebruary 16, 2013 – CHINA – A woman diagnosed with the H5N1 strain of the bird flu last week, has died in southwest China. Health authorities in Guiyang, Guizhou province, announced that the 21-year-old woman, Shuai Pengyue, died on Wednesday due to multiple organ failure as a result of the flu. Shuai was one of two women reported in the area to have contracted the new strain of the avian influenza. Health officials have investigated the two of them and concluded that neither patient was in contact with poultry before showing symptoms of the illness. Victim proximity is important to note because typically, the bird flu is contracted by being in contact with poultry. In this case, health officials worry this could be signs that the H5N1 strain can now be transmitted between humans. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, a 3-year-old girl has become the sixth person to die from the bird flu in the country this year. The Cambodian Health Ministry and the World Health Organization released statements saying that the child was in contact with poultry recently in the southern province of Kampot. Cambodia has already reported seven human cases of the H5N1 virus this year, all of them fatal except one. Health officials and scientists have feared that the virus could mutate into a highly contagious strain which could be transmitted from human to human. Scientists in the Netherlands and the U.S. have been working on an artificially mutated version of the flu that is easily transmissible among humans in an attempt to do research for prevention or a cure. Research was halted until recently due to fears of a deadly global pandemic if the virus was accidentally removed from the controlled environment. Now, researchers are making a push to resume investigation of the deadly virus, especially in light of the new cases. Leo Poon Lit-man, an associate professor at the University Of Hong Kong School Of Public Health, told the South China Morning Post that he supports the controversial research. “The only way… to control the virus and come to a prevention plan is to allow the research to go forward,” Poon said. Adding, “the H5N1 is still a threat to humans, and it is true that the research may pose some risk. But we may also benefit from it, as we need further understanding of the virus to ensure a better response in case of an outbreak.” The mortality rate for the avian flu was as high as 60 percent during the 2003 outbreak in Southeast Asia. Most of the victims caught the disease from birds. – IBT

H5N1, the next pandemic? Scientists greatest fear was human transmission of the virus – 2008

 
_63070188_coronavirussplSARS-like virus infects 3rd victim in UK: A third member of a family in the UK has been infected with a new respiratory illness similar to the deadly SARS virus, officials say. It strengthens evidence that the virus can spread between people, however experts say the risk to the general population remains small. Of the 12 people confirmed to have the virus, five have died. This case appears to be a milder form of the infection and the patient is not being treated in hospital. The infection is thought to come from contact with animals. However, if the virus can spread between people it poses a much more serious threat. This is the fourth case identified in the UK. The first was a patient flown in from Qatar for treatment. The second was linked to travel to the Middle East and Pakistan. The virus is then thought to have spread from the second patient to his son and another member of the family. Prof John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the Health Protection Agency, said: “Although this patient had a mild form of respiratory illness, as a precaution the HPA is advising that the patient self-isolate and limit contact with non-household members. “Although this case appears to be due to person-to-person transmission, the risk of infection in contacts in most circumstances is still considered to be low.” Other people who came into contact with the family are being tested. –BBC

BirdsH5N1 found in Germany: About 14,000 ducks at a German farm are being slaughtered following a bird flu outbreak. A federal laboratory confirmed Friday the H5N1 virus was detected at the farm near Seelow, east of Berlin — the first such finding in Germany in more than three years. On Saturday, officials started slaughtering the farm’s ducks. Local council spokesman Tobias Seyfarth told news agency dpa that all poultry within a one-kilometer (half-mile) radius of the facility will be kept under observation for the next 21 days, with owners told to keep their birds where they are and report any symptoms. The H5N1 virus normally spreads between sick poultry, but it can sometimes spread from poultry to humans. Bird flu has killed 367 people worldwide since surfacing in 2003, the World Health Organization says. –SF Gate

Anti-herpes, anti-aging, anti-cancer… BHT opposes the same things we do!

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) , a distant relative of vitamin E, is an antioxidant widely used as an anti-aging supplement and to protect food from damage by oxidation and microorganisms.

BHT has two medically useful properties: it is a good antioxidant for neutralizing peroxide radicals that damage cells; and it “dissolves” in the membranes of cells and viruses, altering their interactions with other cells. BHT’s antioxidant properties are responsible for its benefits with regard to aging, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain damage; its membrane effects are responsible for its anti-viral benefits.

The body produces its own antioxidants, such as the enzyme catalase, so why do we need to add BHT and other supplemental antioxidants? The reason is that the body makes an inadequate supply and variety of its own antioxidants. Unless we supplement these with additional ones, considerable damage to DNA and other essential biological structures will take place.

In BHT’s other function, as a membrane manipulator, molecules of BHT merge with the membranes of viruses that have lipid envelopes (such as the herpes virus). The presence of enough BHT molecules in a viral envelope alters the envelope’s physical properties, making the viral particle unable to infect a human cell. This halts a viral infection’s spread within the body.

What is BHT good for?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires us to state here that BHT is a food additive, not a supplement. Nevertheless, the medical literature suggests that BHT is also useful for:

  • preventing viral infections, such as herpes, and terminating their outbreaks
  • prevention of DNA damage and cancer by certain carcinogens
  • protection of the brain from damage by alcohol
  • increasing the tissue concentrations of Vitamin E
  • preventing birth defects in diabetic pregnancies
  • inhibiting atherosclerosis

BHT for herpes infections

To put it briefly, BHT has been shown to lower the incidence of herpes outbreaks, and to shorten the duration of those outbreaks that do occur. What’s more, the virus cannot develop resistance to BHT as it can to anti-viral drugs such as acyclovir — to which the herpes virus has already developed significant resistance. This is because BHT alters membrane properties that are not determined by viral genes — thus, the herpes viruses cannot evolve resistance to BHT by any rearrangement or mutation of their genes.