Selenium is an essential trace element that is required for the activity of a varied groups of protein. Numerous studies has established the beneficial role of selenium in health. Deficiencies in selenium have been associated with increased risk of many health problems including weaken immune system and infection, cancer, cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairments, thyroid disorders and others. This article reviews the general health effect of selenium and selenoproteins – “Selenium, Selenoproteins And Health”. Proteins that contain selenium and whose functional active domain requires selenium are known as selenoprotein. In the literatures, selenium is often being quoted together with vitamin C and Vitamin E as potent antioxidants.
The antioxidant properties of selenium comes from several families of antioxidant enzymes that are selenoprotein. The active catalytic sites of these enzymes contain selenium-cysteine (a selenium modified amino acid). Three groups of such antioxidant enzymes have been identified. They are glutathione peroxidases,thioredoxin reductases, iodothyronine deiodinases. These antioxidant enzymes catalyze redox reactions and are body’s natural oxidative stress combater. Selenium also stimulates glutathione, one of the natural antioxidant available in the body. Antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes protect body, including skin, from free radical (or reactive oxygen species) damage. Free radicals are hyper reactive agents that can damage protein, genes and cellular membrane structures. In the skin, free radical can damage skin structural protein collagen, elastin and other extracellular matrix protein (see post “free radical theory of skin aging”). Collagen and elastin in the skin are protein fiber in the dermis layer that contribute to elasticity of skin. When collagen and elastin fibers in the skin are damaged and cross linked, combined with dehydration, wrinkles and creases appears and skin becomes slack. Therefore the most evident effect of selenium for skin health is to prevent and delay the process of skin aging by its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory property, because free radical can also exacerbate unwanted excess or chronic inflammation which is harmful to the skin as well. The effect of chronic or excess inflammation on the skin aging is discussed in this article.
In addition, as selenium improves heart health, improved blood circulation leads to improved radiance and texture of skin. Selenium is able to chelate and detoxify certain toxic substances and heavy metals in the body which also contribute to the healthy appearance of skin. For example, selenium has an unusually high “binding affinity” for mercury. Selenium can increase absorption of vitamin E – a very effective antioxidant vitamin in topical skin care products. Selenium appears to work synergistically with vitamin E for enhanced antioxidant function. Research has suggested that mitochondrial (the cellular power plant) integrity depends on adequacy of both vitamin E and selenium. Selenium deficiency could cause hypothyroidism and thyroid hormone imbalance due to the deficiency in selenoprotien iodothyronine deiodinases. Dry, rough and pale skin is one of the common symptoms of thyroid problem (lack of iodine). Hormone imbalance can affect skin texture and appearance indirectly.
Selenium supplementation can benefit skin in a number of other ways:
- prevent and reduce acne
Patients with acne have been shown to have low levels of blood selenium, as well as low levels of selenium-dependent glutathione activity. Clinical research has shown that selenium supplementation, along with vitamin E, decreases acne while simultaneously increasing glutathione activity in those patients.
- prevent skin cancer.
The skin cancer foundation has analyzed the correlation between serum level of selenium and two types of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma). It was found that lower serum selenium level were associated with increased incidence of both types of cancer. Relatively higher selenium in the blood are associated with an approximately 60% decrease in subsequent tumor incidence of both types of cancer.
- stimulate burn healing and prevent sunburn
- reduce other skin problems
Clinical trials have shown that selenium has a role in the prevention of inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema and treatment of fungus infections of the skin (Tinea Versicolor). Selenium’s immune boosting property may help fight cold sores and shingles caused by the herpes virus as well.
- treatment of dandruff
Dandruff is usually treated by selenium sulfide. Many times, dandruff leads to outburst of acne.
The preferred way of utilizing selenium for healthy skin is thorough diet and selenium supplements. Selenium content of certain food depends on the soil they are planted. Food source from selenium abundant soil contain higher selenium. Some diary products are fortified with selenium such as some cereal products. In general, selenium containing food include brazil nuts, whole grains and dairy products, lean meats, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood. The RDA for supplementation is 55 mcg, the recommended level for maximum efficacy is about 100-200 mcg. Excess selenium supplementation is toxic which could cause selenosis. Selenium supplementation should not exceed 400 mcg in order to avoid side effects.
For skin care, topical products containing selenium are available although most of them are not used as primary active ingredients. One line of product Cytolnat® Selenium- available on amazon – is a topical skin care product specifically designed to prevent, slow down and correct the signs of aging skin. Its formula is rich in organic selenium extracted from a particular strain of seaweed (Thalassiosira pseudonana). Cytolnat Selenium protects the skin against damaging intrinsic and extrinsic causes of skin aging. Another line of skin care products utilize thermal water containing selenium derived from rocks to be part of the formulation to complement other antioxidants such as vitamin E, C.