Selenium is good for our body. Or not? And if so, how much selenium does my body need and how much might be too much? How high is my daily selenium requirement? These uncertainties are quite understandable, because there are numerous studies about selenium that make a wide variety of statements.
We want to clear all doubts and provide you with the answers to all your questions here. In this article you will learn how to find out your daily selenium requirement and how to cover it. We also clarify whether selenium really helps against diseases such as Hashimoto's or cancer and whether too high a daily dose is harmful.
the essentials in brief
- The daily selenium requirement of adults is 70 µg for men. Women, on the other hand, have a requirement of 60 µg per day. In children, the need increases with age. When taking selenium supplements, the maximum amount of 300 µg per day for adults and up to 250 µg per day for children should not be exceeded.
- The selenium daily requirement can normally be covered by a healthy and balanced diet. In the case of a low selenium level due to certain lifestyles or illnesses, the daily requirement can be regulated by taking appropriate dietary supplements.
- It's the crowd. True to the motto, not too much and not too little, you should find a healthy balance in the intake of selenium that is adapted to your own body. Selenium supplements should only be taken after consulting a doctor.
Selenium daily requirement: What you should know
Our body needs a variety of substances to support and maintain many bodily functions and the immune system . With some he is able to produce them himself. We have to take others, such as vitamin D from the sun, or selenium from certain foods or supplements.
Selenium is important for our body. It supports some important functions in our organism. (Image Source: Zac Durant / Unsplash)
Selenium plays an important role in the body. But there are some ambiguities in relation to daily needs. In order not to be unsettled by daring theories and unsubstantiated claims, we have summarized the most important topics relating to the daily requirement of selenium in the form of scientifically proven data and facts. So you can't go wrong in this regard.
What is selenium and why is it so important for your body?
Selenium is a trace element that is taken up from the soil by plants and animals. Selenium, in turn, enters our bodies through plant and animal foods and takes on anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functions (1).
Selenium is a vital trace element.
As a component of important proteins and enzymes, it supports the human organism (7). For example, it is responsible for the regulation of thyroid hormone and the formation of sperm. It is therefore important that you supply your body with a sufficient amount of selenium every day.
What is the daily selenium requirement for children and adults?
There are only estimated values for a sufficient daily requirement of selenium. However, the results of many studies have shown very similar values for the daily requirement. The following data show an adequate selenium intake in micrograms per day (2.3).
|Old||Selenium in µg/day|
|0 to 4 months||10|
|4 to 12 months||15|
|1 to 4 years||15|
|4 to 7 years||20|
|7 to 10 years||30|
|10 to 13 years||45|
|13 to 15 years||60|
|from 15 years||male: 70, female: 60|
The values increase with advancing age and are also differentiated according to gender from the age of 15 years. The daily requirement increases for pregnant and breastfeeding women. You can use this table to roughly orient yourself and classify.
How do I find out my daily selenium requirement?
Your daily selenium requirement depends on various factors that you should first weigh up. Age and gender are not the only important factors. Your physical condition or your health can also have a significant impact on the daily selenium requirement.
In principle, the estimated values from the table above apply, which are 60 or 70 µg per day for healthy adults. The daily requirement of selenium is minimally increased in pregnant women, while it increases by around 15 µg per day in nursing mothers. The reason for this is the compensation by the breast milk given.
A good selenium status is a prerequisite for the optimal function of selenocysteine-containing proteins, which regulate the redox balance and the antioxidant capacity of cells and tissues.
However, it may well be that an increase in the usual selenium daily requirement makes sense. This can be the case, for example, with mental or physical illnesses. An increase in the selenium requirement should always be prescribed and accompanied by a doctor and never be decided independently.
How do I cover my daily need for selenium?
The daily requirement of selenium can be achieved through a balanced and wholesome diet. There are many plant and animal foods that naturally contain selenium. Broccoli, asparagus, couscous , onions, garlic, mushrooms, legumes, meat, and fish are all selenium-rich foods that can meet daily needs.
A wholesome diet covers the selenium daily requirement. Important sources of selenium are both plant and animal foods. (Image source: Louis Hansel / Unsplash)
Vegans and vegetarians in particular should make sure that they include foods rich in selenium in their diet, since the selenium content in animal foods is higher than in plant foods. This is because animal feed is additionally enriched with selenium.
The following table shows two examples of foods with which the daily requirement of 60 to 70 µg selenium can be covered. Since the selenium content in the soil varies greatly in different areas, these values are only guide values and do not have any clear significance.
|portion||Groceries||Selenium content per serving in µg|
|100 g||Rye bread||3.0|
|60 g (about 2 slices)||Emmental||6.6|
|60 g (about 1 piece)||egg||6.0|
|25 g (about 2 pieces)||brazil nuts||9.0|
|100 g||Currants black||1.7|
|70g||Rice, natural uncooked||7.0|
When consuming certain foods, however, be sure to pay attention to the quantity. There are some that can be harmful if consumed in large amounts. An example of this is Brazil nuts. They are known for their high selenium content, but due to their high radioactive contamination it is recommended not to exceed the maximum of two Brazil nuts per day.
Brazil nuts have a special position among foods. With specific activities of a few 10 becquerels of radium-226 or radium-228 per kilogram of fresh mass, Brazil nuts can have a radium content that is around 1,000 times higher than that of all food in Germany.
However, the daily requirement of selenium can also be covered by appropriate dietary supplements. However, this should only be done after obtaining the opinion of a specialist. In the case of an extremely one-sided diet (vegan, vegetarian), eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, dialysis patients and diseases that impair the absorption of food in the intestine, supplementation with such preparations makes sense.
Selenium supplements are available at pharmacies, drug stores, supermarkets, or even online. They are available in the form of mono preparations, such as selenium yeast (4), or as mineral mixtures. Some require a prescription, others do not. You should get detailed information and advice about the various products.
What happens if I exceed my daily selenium requirement?
Extremely high daily intakes of selenium can lead to severe selenium poisoning, which can cause ventricular fibrillation, heart failure, or even death. The symptoms are expressed by:
- disorders of the nervous system
- joint pain
- hair loss and loss of nails
An overdose caused by excessive consumption of foods or supplements containing selenium can be recognized by a garlic-like odor on the breath. The amount recommended and specified by a doctor should never be exceeded. If symptoms occur, contact your doctor directly and have your selenium level checked.
Too much selenium is harmful to your body.
The maximum tolerable amount of selenium that adults should consume is 300 µg per day. In children aged 1 to 17 years, the value depends on body weight and is between 60 and 250 µg daily (6). Since dietary supplements for selenium intake contain a maximum of 200 µg selenium per daily ration, no side effects or negative effects on the body are to be expected if taken as directed.
An increase in the daily requirement or exceeding the maximum daily amount of 300 µg selenium should only follow a decision based on medical examinations. Never decide this on your own.
Can an increased selenium daily requirement help with diseases?
There has been some debate about selenium in cancer prevention and the treatment of Hashimoto's autoimmune disease. However, the latest studies in this regard have not shown any effects on reducing the risk of cancer. Neither in general nor when specifically examining certain types of cancer such as prostate cancer. Some research has even found that increasing selenium intake has negative effects (5).
Hashimoto's treatment has been supported in some patients with an increased intake of selenium. Although this had positive effects on the course of treatment, it could not be attributed solely to the increase in the daily selenium requirement and is therefore unclear (8). In both cases, further studies with respective control groups are necessary.
Vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients play a major role in the prevention and treatment of diet-related diseases. A chronic undersupply of essential micronutrients can trigger complex metabolic disorders,<...>.
Nevertheless, an increased selenium intake supports the treatment of some diseases and physical ailments. These include, for example, asthma, arthritis, sepsis, immunodeficiency and dialysis (3).
The well-known phrase, better too much than too little, definitely doesn't apply here! One should not treat the intake of selenium lightly, because both too little and too much selenium harms your body. It is important to find a healthy balance in order to do something good for your body. However, an increased daily requirement of selenium does not help to prevent cancer. Connections were demonstrated in the treatment of Hashimoto. However, these are unclear, which is why further studies are needed.
Most people in Germany take in a sufficient amount of selenium from certain foods every day and do not need any additional supplements. In risk groups and in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, however, it can make sense to regulate the daily requirement for selenium with dietary supplements. As always, be sure to talk to your doctor first.
- Mehdi, Youcef et al. "Selenium in the environment, metabolism and involvement in body functions." Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 18.3 3292-311. 13 Mar 2013, doi:10.3390/molecules18033292 Source
- dge.de: Selected questions and answers about selenium. German Nutrition Society March 2021 Source
- Grober, Uwe. "Dietary Supplement Selenium". DAZ 2008, No. 11, p.72, 03/13/2008 Source
- zentrum-der-gesundheit.de: Selenium deficiency - causes of many complaints. Suzanne Meier. April 01, 2021 Source
- Vinceti M, Filippini T, Del Giovane C, Dennert G, Zwahlen M, Brinkman M, Zeegers MPA, Horneber M, D'Amico R, Crespi CM. Selenium for preventing cancer. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD005195. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005195.pub4. Accessed 02 April 2021. Source
- bfr.bund.de: Suggested maximum levels for selenium in foods including food supplements. BfR. 2021 sources
- Brown, KM, and JR Arthur. "Selenium, Selenoproteins and Human Health: A Review." Public Health Nutrition 4.2b (2001): 593-99. Print source
- van Zuuren, Esther J et al. "Selenium supplementation for Hashimoto's thyroiditis." The Cochrane database of systematic reviews ,6 CD010223. 6 Jun 2013, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010223.pub2 Source