Selenium is one of life’s essential minerals, but it’s understandable if you don’t think about it very often. It doesn’t get the attention that iron, or even magnesium gets, but it is a remarkable necessity nonetheless.
Selenium is found in many food sources, including tuna, liver, oysters, pork, and clams. But highest concentrations of naturally-occurring selenium is found in Brazil nuts, which top the scales with up to 700 percent of daily value in just one serving!
Despite its presence in many foods, it wasn’t until 1818 that selenium was identified, and not until the late 1950s that the mineral’s role in human health was explored. We know now that deficiencies in selenium can have major impacts, and that supplementation may be a key to living well in mind and body.
For the mind, selenium is involved with many processes in the mind. Over the past few decades, researchers have identified selenium levels as a factor for mood, focus, and cognition. Selenium protects cognitive strength and preserves mood by activating glutathione peroxidase, a naturally occurring antioxidant enzyme containing the mineral that stops free radical damage in the brain.
Wang J, Um P, Dickerman BA, Liu J. Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium and Depression: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms and Implications. Nutrients. 2018;10(5):584. Published 2018 May 9.
Micronutrient deficiency and depression are major global health problems. Here, we first review recent empirical evidence of the association between several micronutrients – zinc, magnesium, selenium – and depression. We then present potential mechanisms of action and discuss the clinical implications for each micronutrient. Collectively, empirical evidence most strongly supports a positive association between zinc deficiency and the risk of depression and an inverse association between zinc supplementation and depressive symptoms. Less evidence is available regarding the relationship between magnesium and selenium deficiency and depression, and studies have been inconclusive. Potential mechanisms of action involve the HPA axis, glutamate homeostasis and inflammatory pathways. Findings support the importance of adequate consumption of micronutrients in the promotion of mental health, and the most common dietary sources for zinc and other micronutrients are provided. Future research is needed to prospectively investigate the association between micronutrient levels and depression as well as the safety and efficacy of micronutrient supplementation as an adjunct treatment for depression.
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