Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Selenium: A Powerful Tool in Prostate Health

A 1997 study following both men and women over a period of 10 years found that the group given selenium experienced 41 per cent fewer cases of cancer overall than the placebo group. However, that 41 per cent number covers all cancers. Some specific forms of cancer saw a particularly significant reduction in incidence, such as lung, esophageal, colorectal, and especially prostate.

Men in the selenium group saw a whopping 71 per cent fewer cases of prostate cancer than the placebo group. This agrees with another study which compared the blood-selenium levels of 52 men with prostate cancer with those of 96 men without prostate cancer. The 52 men with prostate cancer had supplied blood samples before and after their diagnoses, allowing researchers to conclude that low selenium levels are consistent with a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer.

The reasons for selenium’s role in reducing cancer incidence appear to fall into 2 major areas. First, it is a critical component in at least 2 enzymes which help reduce damage from free radicals. Remember that free radicals are a natural by-product of the body’s own metabolism, and so it is very important to have these enzymes active and plentiful at all times so that they can eliminate mutant oxygen molecules when and where they arise. Second, selenium has a particular kind of chemical property which makes it attract oxygen molecules and render them harmless in the body.

The best dietary source for selenium is reportedly brazil nuts, although meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products often contain useful amounts as well. However, it can be difficult to get enough selenium from dietary sources, since it often depends on the amount of selenium in the soil where food is grown and may be lost in processing. Labels don’t show you how many micrograms of selenium your food contains. Granted, most Americans consume at least 40 micrograms of dietary selenium daily, but the research does appear to suggest that boosting this number with a moderate supplement is advisable. As always, it is good to talk to your doctor, but when looking into supplements directed at reducing cancer risk, or at improving overall men’s health, keep an eye out for selenium.

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