The mineral selenium has been shown in multiple studies to be an effective tool in warding off various types of cancer, including breast, esophageal, stomach, prostate, liver and bladder cancers.
Unfortunately, not many people get the recommended dose of 200 micrograms a day. Most Americans only get between 60 and 100 micrograms of selenium daily from dietary sources. That means daily supplements might be worth considering.
Research shows selenium, especially when used in conjunction with vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, works to block chemical reactions that create free radicals in the body (which can damage DNA and cause degenerative change in cells, leading to cancer).
Selenium also helps stop damaged DNA molecules from reproducing. In other words, selenium acts to prevent tumors from developing.
Selenium makes chemotherapy safer, more effective
Selenium has also been shown to aid in slowing cancer's progression in patients that already have it.
The use of selenium during chemotherapy in combination with vitamin A and vitamin E can reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy drugs.
The mineral also helps enhance the effectiveness of chemo, radiation, and hyperthermia while minimizing damage to the patient's normal cells; thus making therapy more of a 'selective toxin’.
A 1996 study by Dr. Larry Clark of the University of Arizona showed just how effective selenium can be in protecting against cancer.
In the study of 1,300 older people, the occurrence of cancer among those who took 200 micrograms of selenium daily for about seven years was reduced by 42 percent compared to those given a placebo. Cancer deaths for those taking the selenium were cut almost in half, according to the study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While the study concluded the mineral helped protect against all types of cancer, it had particularly powerful impacts on prostate, colorectal and lung cancers. Jean Carper, in Miracle Cures, called Dr. Clark's findings an "unprecedented cancer intervention study" that "bumped up the respectability of using supplements against cancer several notches."
Food sources of selenium
Although too much selenium can actually be toxic to the system, research indicates the majority of the population is not getting enough of the essential mineral.
Good dietary sources of selenium: garlic, onions, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, whole grains and seeds, mushrooms, egg yolks, seafood, poultry and kidney, liver and muscle meats.
However, because the amount of selenium in vegetables and grains depends on the selenium content in the soil in which they are grown, it can be hard for average consumers to know how much of the mineral they are actually getting in their diets.
Geography can have a significant impact on diet. In Antioxidants Against Cancer, author Ralph Moss PhD, says one theory for why cancer rates are so high in Linxian, China, dubbed "the 'world capital' of cancer," is that the soil is deficient in the essential minerals selenium and zinc.
In Earl Mindell's Supplement Bible, Earl Mindell RPh PhD, suggests part of the reason American men are five times more likely than Japanese men to die from prostate cancer could be because, in general, "the Asian diet contains four times the amount of selenium as the average American diet."
Refined foods and processed foods are generally low in selenium
For example, processing wheat into white flour strips it of a great deal of its selenium.
One way to get more selenium in your diet might be to eat more organically grown foods, which some studies have shown to contain more selenium as well as higher levels of beta carotene and vitamin E.
While some experts advocate taking selenium supplement, some say eating just one shelled Brazil nut -- grown in the selenium-rich soil of central Brazil, will provide about 120 micrograms of the mineral, quite close to the daily target of 200 micrograms.
Sufficient intake of Selenium can actually improve your mood. Researchers found out that those who don't eat enough selenium-rich foods tend to be grumpier than people with a high dietary intake.
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Editor's note: I personally supplement selenium solution (sodium selenite) for cold remedy.