Wooden bowl of brazil nuts

Spotlight on selenium

Most of us are clueless about this marvellous mineral, but selenium can give your fertility, joints and thyroid health a boost.

Say ‘selenium’ and only a few of us know that it’s a mineral found Brazil nuts. Even less of us understand the positive impact selenium can have on our health and wellbeing. Isn’t it time you took selenium seriously?

What is selenium?

Selenium is a mineral found mainly in plants – especially Brazil nuts – sunflower seeds, eggs, garlic, whole grains, and some meat and fish.

It works like an antioxidant, meaning it can help fight damage to our cells and tissues caused by free-radicals.1 Selenium also supports white blood cell production, which helps keep our immune system working properly.

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How selenium benefits our health


Selenium is probably best known for its effect on fertility. A study published in the journal Metallomics in 2015 found that selenium helps keep ovarian follicles healthy2, which is important for egg production. A 2012 UK review of evidence concluded that male and female infertility could be linked to a lack of selenium, while a deficiency was also associated with conditions such as miscarriage and gestational diabetes.3

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Research by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005 discovered that people with the highest selenium levels in their bodies had a 40% lower risk of developing knee osteoarthritis4 compared with those with the lowest levels. Several studies have also found that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a selenium deficiency5,6, but more trials are needed to determine if taking selenium can help prevent RA.

How much selenium do you need?

If you eat a varied diet, you should be getting enough selenium-rich foods. However, where your food is grown can have an effect, because selenium levels in soil vary from country to country and are also in serious decline.

A Swiss study in 2017 predicted that countries with already low levels, including Germany, Denmark and Scotland, will see selenium levels dip further still thanks to climate change7, so try taking a supplement if you’re concerned.

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