by Frederic J. Vagnini, MD
People with diets low in this trace mineral have a two to three times greater risk of heart disease that those with diets rich in it.
Individuals with diets low in selenium have a two to three times greater risk of heart disease than those with diets rich in selenium. This trace mineral is important for heart patients because it performs a number of functions: 1) it acts as an antioxidant, preventing free radical and oxidative damage; 2) it improves the lipid profile, increasing the ratio of the good HDL cholesterol to LDL cholesterol; and 3) it inhibits platelet aggregation (dotting). In one clinical study, patients with blockages of three coronary arteries had low blood selenium levels; those free of blockage had high selenium levels.
But beneficial as selenium is to heart patients, it is as a cancer fighter that selenium appears to do a most remarkable job. Researchers undertook an investigation of the reported link between selenium and skin cancer. They failed to discover a strong association, but in the course of their work they were astonished to find that patients given selenium had radically reduced rates of several other types of cancer. Inpatients taking 200 micrograms of selenium daily, the risk of prostate cancer plummeted by 64 percent, colon and rectal cancer dropped by 58 percent, and the lung cancer decreased by 45 percent. The overall mortality rate from cancer among patients taking selenium supplements was 50 percent lower than among people not taking them. Clinical trials are now underway to determine if these findings can be duplicated.
Some investigations have demonstrated that selenium can dramatically improve arthritis. Prostaglandins produce the inflammation of arthritis, and selenium helps to control prostaglandins by controlling the free radical damage that causes their production. Low levels of selenium also have been associated with cataracts, eczema, premature aging, arthritis, and psoriasis. Depressed immune function and impaired resistance to infection have also been attributed to low levels of selenium. Although chronic low levels of this trace mineral are common, a true deficiency is rare and usually occurs in parts of the world where the levels in the soil are low. Then, a severe heart disorder called Keshan disease can occur. The amount of selenium in the soil affects the amount of it in the food we eat. The effective forms of the supplement are organic, and include selenium-rich yeast and seleno-methionine The National Academy of Sciences has established a safe and effective range for selenium of 50 to 200 micrograms daily.
[an excerpt from "Cardiovascular Wellness," The Newsletter of Dr. Frederic J. Vagnini, Vol V, No. 11]
Dr. Vagnini is a Board Certified Cardiac/Thoracic Surgeon, who after 25 years of conventional medical practice, expanded his area of expertise to include Preventive Medicine and Clinical Nutrition.
He hosts a popular radio program, the Heart Show, airing from 4-5 pm, Sunday, on WOR Radio. He has also developed a cutting-edge line of nutritional supplements under the Nutrition and Wellness brand, now available at Willner Chemists.