Selenium: to supplement or not to supplement

Selenium is present in many foods and available as a supplement. Expensive urine however, may not always be the worst case scenario for those duped by the vitamin/supplement industry.

Not to mention the “multi-dose” capers which are almost certainly increasing vitamins and minerals you don’t need, keeping you chronically dosed on those you need in tiny quantities and overdosing you on supplements or fat soluble vitamins you’re getting in sound quantities from your diet. Selenium dietary levels vary due to the origin of the plants or animals in ones diet.

A large, long term Selenium trial had to be suspended due to onset of many adverse effects including diabetes in participating subjects. Now you expect me to say something about supplement-pushing anti-vaccine lobbyists who blame vaccination for diabetes, don’t you? Wouldn’t dream of it.

Consider the poor chap in the MJA document below, who erroneously diagnosed impending prostrate cancer using the internet and natural remedy websites. He then ordered selenium online and with no monitoring from any health professional died from acute selenium poisoning. Serum selenium levels of below 100 ng (nanogram) per ml and above 160 ng per ml can be problematic. Which of course means absolutely nothing to those of us who didn’t get a fully staffed pathology laboratory for Christmas.

So, don’t be swayed by little warnings of doom on supplement bottles. Do appreciate that the range from insufficient to excessive is not only minor but demonstrably unaided by the swallowing of supplements.

Regarding the gentleman below, well he got hold of 200 grams of sodium selenite powder and went to town on it. The authors conclude;

A brief Internet search revealed 287 000 sites discussing the use of selenium in prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. This provides the public with large amounts of information that is not critically evaluated for validity. After reading Internet information on the possible link between selenium and prevention and treatment of prostate cancer, our patient was able to purchase 200 g of sodium selenite powder without adequate instructions.

He selected a dose himself, with catastrophic consequences. This case highlights the risks associated with failure to critically evaluate Internet material and exposes the myth that natural therapies are inherently safe. Internet sites which fail to disclose the potentially fatal effects of advocated treatments are an emerging threat to health. The World Health Organization has devised guidelines to help consumers evaluate medical information on the Internet, which are available online through the Therapeutic Goods Administration.12 Adverse outcomes of complementary and alternative medicines should be better publicised and more stringently reported to the Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee (ADRAC), in tandem with adverse outcomes of conventional medications, to create a database of side effects of all current therapies

This Tonic clip originally aired on the ABC, Sunday August 14th and looks at the rather rash linking of low serum selenium to various cancers – a notable problem in NZ with their low selenium content soils, and high levels of prominent cancers. How ever, the issue of genetics may also play a role. Australia has varying selenium levels in soil.

Be sure to chat to your doctor about using any supplements. Get a blood test if you wish and have the results explained. Try to avoid selenium supplements and the advice of beaming naturopaths.

If you’re worried about selenium scoff down a hand full of Brazil nuts every week rather than popping pills of dubious quality and concentration.

Accidental Death From Acute Selenium Poisoning


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