Selenium is a antioxidant that plays an important role in the immune system and thyroid hormone metabolism. The mineral protects cells and tissues from damage and therefore helps prevent disease and infection. Selenium is also essential for normal fertility in men. Research has shown that, in some cases, selenium supplements can actually improve fertility.
The mineral selenium can be found in chicken, brazil nuts, brown rice and wholemeal bread. Tuna and oysters are two more excellent source of selenium.
There are no European Commission daily requirements for selenium. However, in the UK the RDA for selenium is 60mcg for women and 75mcg for men. In the United States, the selenium RDA for women is 55 mcg and 70mcg for men.
A deficiency in the mineral selenium is rare in the UK because of the relatively healthy diets and high quality of food we are lucky to have. However, severely malnourished children or individuals on intravenous drips may be at risk.
It's not certain whether the absence of selenium directly causes any problems but it can certainly increase your chances of developing certain illnesses. Enlarged heart and poor heart function as well as mental retardation in children have been associated with low levels of the mineral.
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