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Europeans lack vital trace element: New research reveals great health benefits from more selenium

A whole new review article underlines that not only is the micronutrient selenium crucial to human health, it is vital for Europeans that they increase their intake in order to benefit from it.

Thyroid problems, impaired immune function, low fertility, certain cancers, and several other health conditions typically seen among Europeans may be linked to our low intake of a micronutrient called selenium. One of the world’s leading experts on selenium, Professor Margaret Rayman, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, has just written a review of selenium’s impact on human health in which she points to low intake levels as an underlying cause of different health problems. Rayman also underlines that it seems to be Europeans in particular who need to increase their selenium intake. In contrast to many people in the United States population, the dietary selenium intake of most Europeans is substantially lower. In fact, experts find the selenium content in European food to be too low to provide optimal protection.

Time to act?
The article which is published this week in the scientific journal, The Lancet, is a review of available selenium studies. As a whole, they show a U-shaped ”benefit curve” with increasing selenium intake providing health benefits until a certain point. Once this point is reached there are no additional gains of increasing your selenium intake. Europeans need to reach that ”bend” by increasing their intake of the nutrient and this is why supplements may be necessary.

A possible relation between high selenium intake and increased risk of type-2 diabetes has been proposed but so far no studies have been able to document this effect.

It is not the first time Professor Rayman addresses the selenium issue. Back in 1997, she wrote in the British Medical Journal that the British selenium intake had been reduced by nearly 50% in the past two decades, suggesting that it was time to take action on this somewhat alarming development.

Proven health effects
We know from studies that selenium supports the body’s defence against virus, it improves males fertility by supporting healthy sperm cells, it prevents thyroid diseases, and it even has documented anti-cancer properties. What experts are discussing now is how much of this micronutrient we humans need for optimal protection.

The new review article in The Lancet supports selenium’s role in human health and even brings us one step farther by pointing to the fact that Europeans seem to be lacking the nutrient and should consider increasing their intake to be on the safe side.

The Lancet 2012; Feb.29. E-pub ahead of print

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