Can Selenium Cause Diabetes?

mushrooms, seleniumAmericans with diabetes have been found to have high levels of selenium in their bodies, leading some experts to believe that it could contribute to development of the disease. A research team has now recommended that U.S. residents stop taking supplements that contain selenium.
Most Americans ingest large amounts of the mineral because soil in much of the U.S. contains high levels that are absorbed by crops. Selenium occurs naturally in soil, and leaches onto farm fields from irrigation and streams.

A research team examined the diabetes rate and selenium levels among nearly 1,000 people over the age of 40. They found that most had a good deal of selenium in their blood, but those with diabetes had substantially more.

Selenium is an essential element and antioxidant, but medical experts say there may be a fine line between the amount that your body needs and the amount that is harmful.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Selenium, a trace mineral and antioxidant that is essential to health, is typically surrounded in positive press. In fact, past studies have shown it can play a beneficial role in:
• Heart disease
• Cognitive decline
• Cataracts and macular degeneration
• Cold sores and shingles
• Osteoarthritis
It is because of these very benefits that supplements containing selenium have increased in popularity in the United States, to the extent that close to one-quarter of Americans over 40 take a selenium supplement or multivitamin that includes selenium.

However, this new study is a telling example of what happens when you get too much of a good thing -- often the benefits turn into risks.

In the case of selenium, there is a fine line between the amount that is beneficial and the amount that is harmful. A daily dosage between 150-300mcg would be completely safe for the average adult. The study found that those with diabetes had an average of nearly 144 parts per billion (ppb) of selenium in their blood, compared with about 136 ppb for the non-diabetics; a small discrepancy, but a large difference in potential risk.

Although it’s not known exactly why too much selenium may increase diabetes risk, it may do so by increasing insulin resistance.

Past studies have also suggested a link between the mineral and diabetes, including the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, whose results were released in 2007. Also that year, a study that gave people selenium tablets to determine if it reduced their cancer risk was discontinued because participants experienced a high diabetes rate.

So, again, resist the typical American approach of concluding that if a little is good, even more is better. This can frequently backfire when it comes to supplements and even foods.
The Safest Way to Optimize Your Selenium Levels
The selenium content of your food is highly dependent on the level of selenium in the soil where the food was grown. In the United States, selenium levels in soil tend to be relatively high (northern Nebraska and the Dakotas have soil that is especially high in selenium).

However, in other areas such as China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, soil levels of selenium tend to be much lower, and if you eat food primarily grown in these areas, a high-quality selenium supplement may be beneficial. Even parts of the United States have been identified as selenium-deficient regions, including:
• The Pacific Northwest
• Parts of the Great Lakes region and east of it toward New England
• Parts of the Atlantic Coast
If you live in one of these areas and focus your diet on locally grown foods from the region, you may be low in selenium.

On the flipside, if you eat a diet from a variety of regions, including those rich in selenium, you can generally get plenty of selenium from your diet, and thereby get the benefits of the mineral without risking an overdose. Some excellent food sources of selenium include (again, assuming they are grown in ideal soil conditions):
• Brazil nuts
• Button mushrooms and shitake mushrooms
• Eggs
• Sunflower seeds
Mustard seeds
How to Further Minimize Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population, or 24 million people, has diabetes, and another 57 million have pre-diabetes, which puts them at an increased risk of the disease.

If you belong to either one of these groups it seems prudent to avoid extra selenium at this time.

Further, treating and preventing type 2 diabetes is simply a matter of implementing some basic strategies to improve your insulin and leptin resistance:
1. Exercise. Exercise is an absolutely essential factor, without which you’re highly unlikely to get this devastating disease under control. It is clearly one of the most potent ways to lower your insulin and leptin levels.

I have put together a video of my recommendations for a very comprehensive exercise program and you can watch it now.

2. Eliminate grains and sugars. For the last 50 years, many people have been following the nutritional recommendations dictated by conventional health agencies, which advise a high complex carbohydrate, low saturated fat diet. The end result has been a 700 percent increase in diabetes in the same time frame and many have come to view diabetes as an incurable chronic disease …

This is clearly not true, but it’s the inevitable result of seriously flawed dietary recommendations.

Instead, you’ll want to eliminate foods that your body will react to by creating insulin, which includes all types of sugars and grains -- even “healthy” grains such as whole, organic grains. This means avoiding all breads, pasta, cereals, rice, potatoes, and corn (which is in fact a grain). You may even need to avoid fruits until your blood sugar is under control.

3. Eat right for your nutritional type. Even doing all of the above steps might not be enough unless you balance your protein, carb and fat ratios for your unique and specific genetic biochemistry. You can read more about nutritional typing here.

4. Monitor your fasting insulin level. This is every bit as important as your fasting blood sugar. You’ll want your fasting insulin level to be between 2 to 4. The higher your level, the worse your insulin receptor sensitivity is.

The recommendations mentioned above are the key steps you need to achieve this reduction.

5. Optimize your vitamin D level. Interestingly, optimizing your vitamin D levels can not only help improve type 2 diabetes if you have it, but can likely eliminate the risk of type 1 diabetes (along with autoimmune diseases and autism) in your children if you are pregnant. It’s also vital for infants to receive the appropriate amounts of vitamin D in their early years for these same reasons.

Ideally, you’ll want to do this by exposing a large amount of your skin to appropriate amounts of sunshine (or a safe tanning bed) on a regular basis, year-round. Your body can safely create up to 20,000 units of vitamin D a day this way.

However, if neither of these options are available, you clearly want to use an oral vitamin D3 supplement. But remember, if you choose to take an oral supplement it’s essential that you get your levels tested regularly by a proficient lab to make sure you’re not reaching toxic levels, and are within the therapeutic range. Maintaining your vitamin D levels around 60-80 ng/ml can significantly help control your blood sugar.