Selenium lowers diabetes risk

Years ago, I spent some time in the People’s Republic of China, researching the use of selenium to prevent cancer. I’ll tell you more about what we found in a future issue of Insiders’ Cures. But today, there’s some different selenium news I want to share with you. Researchers recently discovered that this mineral can significantly reduce the risk of one of today’s biggest epidemics—diabetes.

One thing I especially liked about this study was that it didn’t rely on dietary questionnaires to determine the subjects’ selenium intake. If you have been reading my Daily Dispatch e-letter, you know these sorts of questionnaires, which require people to recall what they eat, are notoriously faulty.

But this study measured selenium content in the subjects’ toenails. Which is a much more accurate way to determine long-term exposure to this mineral. And the researchers found that those with the highest concentrations of selenium have a 25 percent lower risk of diabetes.

On the flip side, possible selenium toxicity is a rare but real concern. Excess levels of selenium in the blood can lead to a condition called selenosis. Symptoms include stomach problems, hair loss, and nerve damage. To avoid side effects and potential toxicity, it’s best to keep your selenium intake at or below 400 mcg per day.

For most people, the best way to obtain optimal levels of selenium is, once again, to choose healthy foods. Brazil nuts are a rich dietary source of selenium. Tuna, cod, turkey, chicken, and eggs are also good sources.

“Toenail Selenium and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in U.S. Men and Women,” Diabetes Care 2012; 35(7): 1,544-1,551