Selenium is a mineral that is required by the body in trace amounts for a healthy immune system, normal thyroid function, and antioxidant protection.
Selenium is absolutely required in the production of at least 30 selenoproteins in the body. First, selenium is joined to the amino acids cysteine as selenocysteine and to methionine as selenomethionine before being used as components for selenoproteins. Many selenoproteins are important antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase.
Q: How does glutathione peroxidase work?
A: Glutathione peroxidase activity helps the recycling of vitamins C and E in optimizing the performance of the antioxidant system. The antioxidant properties of selenoproteins help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Free radicals are natural by-products of oxygen metabolism that may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
In the immune system, selenium stimulates immune properties of lymphocytes (white blood cells) by contributing to higher natural killer lymphocyte activity. Natural killer lymphocytes have the ability to destroy cancer cells and bacterial and viral agents.
Other selenoproteins help protect the thyroid gland from anti-oxidants and regulate thyroid function. Specifically, selenium plays an integral role in thyroid gland metabolism.1 Functions are more fully described below.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations, approximately 30 percent of tissue selenium is contained in the liver, 15 percent in kidney, 30 percent in muscle, and 10 percent in blood plasma.
What Is Selenium Deficiency In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?
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Stazi AV, Trinti B. Selenium status and over-expression of interleukin-15 in celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid diseases. Ann Ist Super Sanita. 2010;46(4):389-99.DOI: 10.4415/ANN_10_04_06. ↩