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Side Effects of Selenium

Side Effects of Selenium

Selenium is an essential trace mineral that plays a vital role in making antioxidant enzymes. Selenium toxicity, which is also called selenosis, is quite rare. This HealthHearty write-up lists out the side effects of selenosis.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Selenium is an essential mineral for many plants and animals. Its requirement varies, depending on the plant species. Some plants accumulate this micronutrient as a defense mechanism, whereas some species do not require it at all. In humans, this mineral plays an important role in enzymatic reactions of the cell. Selenium acts as a cofactor for various enzymes such as those of antioxidants and thyroid hormones. To be precise, it helps in blood clotting and stimulates the immune system.
The deficiency of this mineral is rare in healthy children and adults. Usually, low levels have been observed in children affected by kwashiorkor disease. Its deficiency could be related to the deficiency of proteins in malnourished children. Keshan disease, Kashin-Beck disease, and myxedematous endemic cretinism are other conditions that are linked to the deficiency of this trace mineral. In adults, the deficiency of this mineral can cause excess fatty deposits in the liver, which might result in fatty liver syndrome. Studies have revealed that people with intestinal problems are at a higher risk of developing a deficiency of this mineral.
Uses and Dietary Sources

Selenium sulfide is used in anti-dandruff shampoos and other skin lotions. Though there is no sufficient data to prove the therapeutic uses of this trace mineral, it is claimed that its supplements can be used for the treatment of tuberculosis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and AIDS. These supplements are also used for treatment of vitamin E deficiency, muscle pain, arthritis, growth problems, asthma, anemia, and mercury toxicity.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 55 mcg, which can be achieved from the daily diet. Selenium-rich foods include:
➻ Brazil nuts
➻ Noodles
➻ Macaroni
➻ Eggs
➻ Seafood
➻ Cod
➻ Poultry
➻ Beef
Brazil nuts contain the highest amount of selenium, and it is suggested that consuming one raw Brazil nut is enough to provide the daily requirement of this mineral.
Side Effects

In general, the body's requirement of this mineral can be met by following a healthy diet. Problems arise in the event of an overdose of selenium supplements. Consumption of more than 400 mcg of this mineral per day can lead to selenosis. Side effects associated with the excessive intake of this mineral include:
➻ Garlic odor in the breath due to the presence of dimethyl selenide in the exhaled air
➻ Metallic taste in the mouth
➻ Digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea
➻ Lightheadedness, peripheral neuropathy, irritability, stress, and depression
➻ Skin problems like rash, dermatitis, and flushing
➻ Thickening or loss of fingernails; affected nails are susceptible to infection
➻ Difficulty in breathing
➻ Malfunctioning of the vital organs (liver, kidney and heart)
➻ Presence of selenium in the urine sample
➻ Cardiovascular problems like heart damage, heart failure, and cardiac arrest
If the aforementioned symptoms are observed after the administration of selenium supplements, it is advisable to consult a qualified physician. If left untreated, selenosis can be life-threatening. It must be noted that the use of these supplements is not recommended for children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.