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Benefits of Vitamin E and Selenium

By Dan Harriman

Vitamin E is composed of naturally occurring fat-soluble compounds that provide the body with a significant antioxidant. A number of benefits have been linked to vitamin E, which is found in many common foods, such as almonds, wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds and broccoli. It is also available as a dietary supplement.

Selenium is an important part of overall health. The trace mineral selenium combines with proteins to create selenoproteins that have been shown to have important cellular benefits. Everyday foods contain selenium, including tuna, beef, turkey, eggs, rice and cheese.

Vitamin E and Coronary Heart Disease

Based on information published in "Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease," a number of "in vitro" studies have shown vitamin E to affect low-density lipoprotein cholesterol oxidation. The vitamin E nutrients are believed to inhibit this process, which unchecked can initiate atherosclerosis, a vascular disease. Women seem to benefit the most from routine Vitamin E supplementation. Data from a 2005 report by I. M. Lee and colleagues in "The Journal of the American Medical Association" indicated that a clinical trial including 40,000 healthy 45+ year old women showed a 24 percent reduction in cardiovascular death rates, and women aged 65 and over had a 49 percent decrease, as well as a 26 percent decrease in nonfatal heart attacks. Some questions still surround the overall effectiveness of vitamin E on coronary heart disease, however. The amount of routine vitamin E intake is under scrutiny, and too much vitamin E may have no affect on the disease based on the National Institutes of Health, or NIH.

Vitamin E and Cancer

Research data from a 1998 epidemiological summary by J. M. Chan, et al., in "Seminars in Cancer Biology" indicates that vitamin E may have a positive effect on fighting cancers such as breast or prostate. While much of the research is still inconclusive and inconsistent, vitamin E antioxidants have shown to protect cells from harmful free radicals that may be cancerous or aid in cancer development. Another vitamin E benefit is its promotion of a healthy immune system needed to protect the body from harmful carcinogenics. According to the NIH, men who smoke and those who have quit may benefit from vitamin E supplementation, as prostate cancer rates among this group fell dramatically in a study after taking 400 IU of vitamin E daily.

Selenium and the Thyroid

Research by H. Derumeaux and colleagues published in "European Journal of Endocrinology" in 2003 indicates that selenium may slow or halt the enlargement of the thyroid gland. This relationship between selenium and the thyroid was established during the study's attempt to identify if selenium supplementation can aid in iodine deficiency, a common occurrence in developing countries. Iodine is needed for the thyroid to function properly. People who suffer from an iodine deficiency are at risk for thyroid problems, which is made worse by a selenium deficiency, according to the NIH. Healthy levels of selenium benefits iodine deficiency and, in turn, ward off thyroid problems such as goiters.

Selenium Supplementation

A poor diet and certain disease have been linked to selenium deficiency. Keshan Disease occurs in children who suffer from a selenium deficiency and an enlarged heart, according to the NIH. This typically leads to poor heart function and makes the body weak and susceptible to illness. Supplementation may help restore selenium levels in patients and aid in the absorption of essential nutrients.

Selenium may be beneficial in promoting overall health and could be a key in cancer-prevention. Research findings reported in 2001 by G. F. Combs, Jr. in "Nutrition and Cancer" suggest that increased levels of the recommended dietary allowance of selenium can provide beneficial health effects. Such findings may force a reassessment of nutritional guidelines.

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