What Does Selenium Do to Your Body?

Selenium is a trace mineral that is crucial for many components of human health. Some of its functions include reproduction management and thyroid hormone metabolism. It is also involved in DNA synthesis. It can be found naturally in many foods. It is also added to some through the process of fortification. You may also take them as a supplement.

Health Functions​

Selenium is essential for humans as it plays a critical role in reproduction. In fact, getting adequate selenium can decrease your chances for infertility. Selenium is also important for your thyroid. It assists in the breakdown of your thyroid hormone. It is also essential for DNA synthesis. Selenium can help prevent damage to DNA. It also protects our bodies from oxidative damage and infection. This means it helps reduce damage to our cells.

Disease Risk Reduction

Selenium has been shown to play a role in the prevention and management of cancer and cardiovascular disease. It also helps fight against cognitive decline and thyroid disease. Research shows that those who have lower levels of selenium are at higher risk for these diseases. Selenium may also decrease oxidative damage in our bodies. They do this by promoting in favor of antioxidants over free radicals. Free radicals are the unstable atoms in our body that can cause damage to our cells. Research also shows that it is needed for the proper functioning of our immune system. For example, selenium can help prevent HIV from progressing into AIDS. This is done by a certain scientific mechanism.

Groups at Risk

There are several reasons for selenium deficiency. One of the most common ones is not eating enough of selenium in your diet. Inadequate oral intakes have been associated with certain diseases. These include cancer, Alzheimer’s, and alcoholism.

Those with phenylketonuria (PKU) are also vulnerable to selenium deficiency. This is because their diet is very restricted to certain food groups. PKU is an inborn genetic disorder. It involves an error in their production of phenylalanine, an amino acid. This can result in growth failure and poor skin pigmentation. It can also lead to developmental delay. Although PKU can’t be cured, nutrition can aid in diet management. They are advised to avoid traditionally protein-rich foods like meat, eggs, and fish. The avoidance of protein typically results in lower selenium. This is because they are in many of the same food sources.

People undergoing kidney dialysis may also be at risk for selenium deficiency. This is because hemodialysis removes blood, which includes selenium from the body. Those with HIV may also be at risk due to low intakes. It may also be combined with losses from diarrhea and malabsorption.

Intake Recommendations

Recommended daily intakes of selenium for men  is 70 mcg and 55 mcg for women. It may not be hard to reach these goals. Selenium can be found in many different foods such as brazil nuts, garlic, and onion. You may also eat salmon, eggs, and dates. Selenium, in fact, is the top mineral reported in dates. Eating about 100g of dates can provide over 15% of the daily recommended value of selenium.


Selenium is important for many vital functions in our body. Selenium helps our bodies synthesize DNA. It also helps manage our reproductive system and metabolize our thyroid hormone. By consuming the daily recommended value, you can decrease your risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, or cognitive decline. Therefore, it’s important to understand which foods to consume. This will help you obtain adequate selenium in your diet! Dates is one such food that can help us do so. 

Written by:

Allison Tallman, MS, RDN, CNSC

Registered Dietitian

Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian
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PubMed Central

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