What is Selenium

It is described as a non metal chemical element with atomic mass of 78.96, atomic number of 34 with a symbol Se. selenium rarely exist naturally but is obtained from the refining of other elements. Due to its closeness to sulfur, it’s found in sulfide ores replacing sulfur in some places, selenates and selenides are rare naturally. It was identified in 1817 by a Swedish chemist, Jons Berzelius.

Importance of selenium

It is used industrially in glassmaking however, the most important application of selenium is in living organisms. It works together with vitamin E to detoxify the body. The other important use is to promote development of chromosomes, the powerhouse of living organisms, thereby facilitating oxygen use in metabolism. Both healthy organ function and energy supply are dependent on adequate intake of selenium regularly, especially on a daily basis.

Uses of selenium

  • Commercially, it is widely used to make glass and pigments. Its use in electronics has of late been overtaken by silicon semiconductors. It conducts electricity in the light more than in the dark hence its use in photocells.
  • In trace amounts, it is essential in the functioning of living cells. When incorporated into proteins making selenoproteins, it acts as very good antioxidant enzymes.
  • Its antioxidant properties safeguard cells from being damaged by free radicals that may cause cancer to develop.
  • Selenoproteins also function as regulators of thyroid function and have a part to play in the immune system.
  • Selenium is believed to promote proper functions of several organs in the body hence healthy heart and blood pressure.
  • Selenoproteins also functions to maintain healthy skin.


Consuming large amounts of selenium will result in selenium toxicity, high amounts of the element is dangerous even though it is necessary for body functions. It can be found by eating plants that have stored high levels of the element in the leaves as waste. These are common in plants and vegetables grown in sewers and grounds with high amounts of selenium.

Its deficiency can cause problems health wise. Keshan disease is an example of conditions caused when the body lacks selenium; it is the weakening of heart muscles resulting in poor and inadequate pumping of blood to organs hence lower oxygen and nutrient supply and toxic waste removal. Thyroid functions will also be affected with a deficiency of selenium. This will result in low energy levels, inability to do regular activities and a reduced sex drive.

Selenium can be found in vegetables for the daily requirement of 55micrograms. However, it should be noted that vegetables grown in selenium deficient soils will not provide the required dosage.  Organic vegetables will surely provide the daily requirement; one can go for Brazilian nuts, eggs, lobster and some fresh water and salt water fish. If all fails, go for selenium supplements from the chemist.