Selenium protects against obesity and seems to extend lifespan – as studies show. One more reason to avoid a selenium deficiency. However, a lack of the essential trace element is common among us Central Europeans.
Does a long, healthy life thanks to selenium?
Reaching a ripe old age while leading a healthy and self-determined life – that’s what almost everyone wants. A group of researchers from the Orentreich Foundation for the Advancement of Science in the United States has come a little closer to the key to a long, healthy life: selenium intake could play an important role in extending lifespan.
Low-methionine diet extends the lifespan
The researchers already knew from earlier studies that a low-methionine diet has a positive effect on lifespan. Methionine is an amino acid that is particularly abundant in animal foods. For this reason, a plant-based diet, which is automatically low in methionine, is also very suitable for anyone planning a long, healthy life. You can find a list of foods rich in methionine here.
With a low-methionine diet, the IGF1 level decreases. IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) is a hormone that is important in controlling cell growth. Low IGF1 levels appear to be an important life-prolonging factor. It is known from previous studies that selenium can also lower IGF1 levels, so scientists now want to examine the effects of selenium on lifespan.
Selenium has a life-prolonging effect
Using yeast cultures, the researchers discovered that selenium (organic or inorganic, it didn’t matter) could extend the lifespan of yeast cells. Compared to yeast cells that had to get by without selenium, the yeast cells fed with selenium lived 62 percent longer, i.e. 21 days instead of 13 days. It is not yet known whether supplementation with selenium also extends lifespan in humans.
Selenium protects against obesity and reduces body fat
Selenium can also have a positive effect on life span via a detour. Because a healthy selenium level helps to lose weight or to avoid obesity – and obesity is known to be a risk factor for many chronic diseases, which ultimately cost years of life.
A 2020 Italian study put 37 overweight adults (aged 18-65) on a slightly reduced-calorie diet for three months. Half received 240 µg selenomethionine (organic selenium) daily, and the other half a placebo preparation. At the end of the study, the selenium group was able to enjoy a significantly reduced body fat percentage and an increased muscle percentage, which was not the case in the placebo group.
Selenium compensates for the harmful effects of a diet rich in methionine
The low-methionine diet has similarly positive effects on body weight, as initial mouse studies show. On a high-fat diet containing normal amounts of methionine (typical of a Western diet), the respective animals had gained significant weight and body fat. However, animals that were fed a low-methionine diet were protected from gaining weight and fat. Her IGF1 levels had dropped.
Interestingly, selenium appears to have such a strong effect on obesity protection that a third group of mice that received selenium (sodium selenite = inorganic selenium) in their high-fat, methionine-rich diet did not become overweight and also had low IGF1 levels. The selenium was therefore able to compensate for the unfavorable effect of a methionine-rich diet on weight.
How does selenomethionine fit into a low-methionine diet?
In the above study, selenomethionine was chosen as the selenium preparation. How does this recommendation fit in with the advice to eat a low-methionine diet when the selenium preparation itself contains methionine?
Methionine is an essential amino acid, which means it must be supplied regularly with food. Methionine is therefore not bad, but necessary and important. However, one should not consume excessive amounts of this amino acid. On a plant-based low methionine diet (low methionine compared to a diet high in animal products), you’re still getting enough methionine to stay well supplied.
If you take – to stay with the example from the study above – 240 µg selenium in the form of selenomethionine, then that is 48 mg selenomethionine.
However, 100 g of meat already contains 490 mg methionine, two small eggs 370 mg, 250 g of yogurt 200 mg, and a 20 g slice of Gouda cheese with 150 mg methionine. You can see that with a diet containing animal products you automatically consume much more methionine than with a methionine-containing selenium supplement.
Ensure sufficient selenium intake
It is undisputed that selenium is of great importance for health: selenium is an essential trace element and must be ingested through the diet. It is therefore already an advantage to avoid at least one selenium deficiency. However, as we reported under the following link, many Central Europeans suffer from a selenium deficiency due to the poor quality of the soil. The functions selenium has in the body are also described in the linked text.
However, always have your selenium levels checked before taking selenium. You can read information about this in the previous link (selenium deficiency), where you will also find a list of selenium-rich foods.
Plant-based nutrition and selenium for a long life
Since of course, not only selenium is a guarantee for long life, it is best to combine several life-prolonging factors: Eat a plant-based diet, exercise as often as possible, avoid stress, sleep well and not only optimize your selenium level but make sure you have a good supply of vital substances.