Selenium is an important nutrient. Although it is not taken directly as a weight-loss supplement, selenium can be a contributing factor in maintaining a healthy weight and plays an important role in vital bodily functions. Selenium can be found in seafood, liver, lean red meats, garlic, sunflower seeds and whole grains.
Selenium was discovered by Jons Jakob Berzelius in 1817. A trace element, its atomic number is 34. Selenium gained notoriety in the 1990’s when its role in producing SeGPX, an important antioxidant, was discovered. Since then, selenium has been studied for its benefits in treating certain types of cancer, heart disease and asthma.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the body needs selenium for normal growth and health. Selenium is an essential micronutrient for animals. When combined with vitamin E, selenium works as an antioxidant by scavenging free radicals in the body. It also is required for normal functioning of the immune system.
Selenium also plays a role in healthy thyroid function. According to the American Thyroid Association, when the thyroid is not functioning properly, weight gain is possible. This condition is known as hypothyroidism. In this instance, weight gain can occur and is typically modest. Five to 10 pounds of weight gain can be attributed to hypothyroidism.
Although selenium is an essential nutrient, rarely are supplements necessary. Most Americans get the recommended daily allowance of selenium in their regular diets. Adults need about 55 micrograms per day; slightly higher amounts are needed for pregnant and lactating females.
Certain gastrointestinal disorders may lead to a deficiency in selenium. Also, people who smoke, drink excessive alcohol or take birth-control pills are at a higher risk of being selenium-deficient. Symptoms of selenium deficiency include muscle weakness and pain, muscle inflammation, abnormal skin coloration and fragile red blood cells.
Selenium can be toxic in large doses. It is recommended that you consult a health care professional before taking selenium supplements. Possible side effects can include fingernail loss, skin rash, irritability and fatigue. People at a high risk for skin cancer should not take selenium before talking with their doctor. Consuming more than the recommended daily dose of selenium over a long period of time may increase your risk of developing diabetes.