Recent research on various cancers indicates that they can fool our bodies’ immune system into an unhealthy ‘over-stimulatory’ state (1). This is particularly the case for some leukemias, melanomas, and prostate cancer.
However, very very tiny amounts of the mineral selenium can stop the cancer-induced ‘over-stimulation’ of the immune system, helping it return to it’s normal role in our health (1). Selenium also assists in thyroid hormone metabolism (2), protecting the thyroid gland from free-radical oxidative stress, and may play other important physiological roles (3).
Although selenium is a potential aid against cancers, it is also controversial. This is because TOO MUCH selenium can be toxic, and sometimes we humans have a tendency to think ‘if a little is good, more is even better’. An excess of selenium is definitely dangerous. Men taking over 150 micrograms of selenium daily in their attempts to battle prostate cancer had an increased risk of mortality (4).
The amount of selenium we need in our daily diets is tiny, on the order of 55 micrograms (that’s 0.000055 gm), found in ONE brazil nut (5). Although supplements can provide selenium, the delicate tight-rope being walked with this mineral indicates that healthy eating is by far a better route to take. Besides Brazil nuts, selenium-containing foods include mushrooms, onions, sunflower seeds, and grains such as oats, barley, brown rice, and wheat germ.
Selenium deficiency is relatively rare, and usually comes from eating foods grown in poor soils. For selenium, ‘bigger is definitely NOT better’, but in the just right amounts provided by healthy eating, we can assist our bodies’ natural processes.
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