The Effects of Selenium & Zinc

Written by erik devaney
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The Effects of Selenium & Zinc
Takig zinc and selenium supplements can help boost your immune system. (health supplement pills image by weim from Fotolia.com)

Selenium and zinc are two chemical elements that are commonly used in nutritional supplements. While selenium is known for its antioxidant qualities (reducing the oxidation of fats in your blood) and for its ability to fortify the body against free radicals (potentially harmful, highly reactive uncharged molecules), zinc is best known for its ability to stabilise cell structures. The combination of these two elements can have a number of effects on the body.

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Immune System Boost

Selenium and zinc are two of the most important nutrients for strengthening the immune system, according to the National Institutes of Health. Selenium assists with the functioning of many immune system mechanisms, including T lymphocytes, macrophages and neutrophils. Because of this, supplemental intake of selenium may help reduce the risk of cancer and has also been linked to inhibiting the progression of HIV and AIDS. In addition, selenium can help alleviate inflammation, and it increases the motility of sperm. Also, according to the NIH, due to zinc's ability to regulate the cell structures of various enzymes and proteins, it can help increase the responsiveness of the immune system. Zinc has been shown to help reduce the development of infections and prolong the survival rates of individuals.

Gut Cancer

According to nature.com, a 1999 study performed by scientists at the University of Naples showed that patients suffering from gut cancers (or digestive system cancers such as colon and rectal cancer) who were treated with chemotherapy had reduced side effects when given selenium and zinc supplements. In general, patients given the supplements were more energetic and had larger appetites than those who were not. This may make selenium and zinc important nutrients for gut cancer treatment courses.

Preventing Salmonella

Perhaps due to the complimentary effects of selenium and zinc on the body's immune system, this pair of elements is particularly well suited for preventing the formation of salmonella-related symptoms; or at least that is what the science now indicates. According to the Poultry Science Association, a 2000 study performed by Tanta University's Department of Animal Nutrition showed that baby chickens that were infected with salmonella, and then fed a diet rich with selenium and zinc turned out healthier than chickens that were infected but did not receive the special diet. The selenium and zinc-fed chickens had normal body growth performance and generally suffered minimal or no ill effects from the salmonella. While the study has not been replicated in humans, this new evidence--in conjunction with what we know about the ways selenium and zinc can boost the immune system--leads scientists to believe that the combination of nutrients could help fight salmonella in humans.

Negative Effects

In very high doses, selenium can be toxic, so vitaminuk.com recommends taking no more than 200µg (micrograms) of the nutrient per day. Side effects from overdose might include skin irritations like itching, rashes and hives, swelling of the tongue, lips or face, a feeling of tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing.

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