Supplement Spotlight: Selenium

Selenium was discovered in 1817 and named for Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon. Its role in health was only later recognized.

In the body, selenium is incorporated into selenoproteins that accomplish a number of functions. Selenium has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

While occurring in trace amounts in a number of foods, including grains, meat, fish, seafood, dairy products and nuts, the amount available in food depends on soil conditions.

In areas with selenium-poor soil, supplementation can be beneficial for supporting optimal levels.

Are You Taking the Right Form of Selenium?

Selenium supplements are available in different forms such as sodium selenite, sodium selenate, selenocysteine, L-selenomethionine, selenomethionine and Se-methyl L-selenocysteine. Each has a unique role in the human body.

Se-methyl L-selenocysteine is found in garlic and broccoli. It is essential to the formation of glutathione peroxidase, the body's primary antioxidant.

Sodium selenite, L-selenomethionine, and selenium-methyl L-selenocysteine are superior for cancer protection.

Selenium Has Anti-Cancer Properties

Selenium may be best known for its cancer-preventive effect. A study conducted in Finland, uncovered an 80% lower risk of lung cancer among men whose toenail selenium concentrations (considered to be a good measure of long term levels) were among the highest.1

In another study, higher blood levels of selenium were associated with a lower risk of esophageal cancer in patients with Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition.

In 2004, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study showing that higher blood levels of selenium were associated with a lower risk of colorectal adenoma, a precursor to colorectal cancer.3

High blood levels of selenium, along with a greater intake of folate have been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer.4

In 2005, the International Journal of Cancer reported a lower risk of fatal liver cancer in individuals with higher toenail selenium levels.5

Increased toenail selenium has also been associated with a lower risk of bladder cancer in women and moderate smokers.6

And in 2011, a study conducted in Spain found a 95% lower risk of pancreatic cancer among those with high toenail selenium levels.7

Selenium May Prolong Your Life

Having higher selenium levels may be associated with a longer life. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found a reduced risk of dying from any cause associated with increasing selenium levels.

And in 2010, findings from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed an association between reduced selenium levels and an increased risk of death.9

How Much Selenium Do You Need?

The National Institutes of Health recommends 55 micrograms per day for males and females aged 14 and older.

While higher doses of selenium have been suggested for cancer prevention or other purposes, the American Cancer Society recommends an upper limit of 400 micrograms per day.10


  1. Cancer Causes Control. 2002 Dec;13(10):923-8. 
  2. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 May 21;95(10):750-7. 
  3. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Nov 17;96(22):1669-75. 
  4. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(2):165-78. 
  5. Int J Cancer. 2005 Jul 1;115(4):618-24. 
  6. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009 Jan;2(1):70-3. 
  7. Gut. 2012 Nov;61(11):1583-8. 
  8. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1):172-6. 
  9. Atherosclerosis. 2010 Oct;212(2):689-94. 
  10. Vitamin and mineral requirements in human nutrition. World Health Organization. 2004. Accessed June 28, 2014.

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All About Vitamin E

Vitamin E is part of a large family composed of tocopherols and tocotrienols.

While alpha-tocopherol is officially recognized as vitamin E, it occurs as alpha, beta, gamma, delta tocopherol, and alpha, beta, gamma, delta tocotrienol.

Vitamin E plays a number of roles in the body, but its function as an antioxidant is the most well known.

The vitamin became better known when studies indicated a role for the prevention of atherosclerosis in 1945. Today, thousands of studies reveal a beneficial role for vitamin E.

Vitamin E Promotes Heart Health

Vitamin E plays an important role in cardiovascular health.

In a clinical trial, heart transplant patients given vitamin C along with vitamin E experienced less arterial thickening (a measure of cardiovascular health) compared to a placebo group after one year.1

In another trial, women supplementing with vitamin E had a lower risk of blood clots.2

Low Vitamin E Levels are Tied to Lung Cancer

The rapid loss of vitamin E from the blood that occurs in smokers has been hypothesized as a cause for lung cancer.3

Additionally, supplementation with vitamin E has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in women.4

Vitamin E is Linked to a Longer Lifespan

Vitamin E is also associated with a longer life span.

A study revealed a 40% increase in average life span in mice supplemented with alpha-tocopherol.5 And in a study of male smokers, having a higher blood level of vitamin E was associated with a lower risk of dying from cancer or any cause.6

Vitamin E, along with vitamin C, improved survival in the thirty-day period following a heart attack in diabetic patients.7

Having a high blood level of alpha-tocopherol also improved survival among prostate cancer patients over two decades.8

Vitamin E Supports Brain Health

Vitamin E benefits the brain too. In fact. a double-blind trial showed a slower progression of Alzheimer’s disease in patients given 2,000 IU of vitamin E daily.9

And in a different study, Alzheimer's patients who supplemented with vitamin E were 26% less likely to die over five years compared to those who did not use the vitamin.10

Foods that Contain Vitamin E

Vitamin E is found in meat, poultry, eggs, grains, and vegetable oils; however, due to its role as a free radical scavenger, the amount contained in these foods diminishes with time, making supplementation a smart choice.

Tocopherols and tocotrienols are fat soluble, meaning that they dissolve in oils, and they are stored in the body. Supplementation is not needed as frequently as with water soluble vitamins.

Should You Supplement with Vitamin E?

Probably, although people with blood clotting disorders or who have been prescribed blood-thinning drugs should consult with their doctors before taking vitamin E.


  1. Lancet. 2002 Mar 30;359(9312):1108-13. 
  2. Circulation. 2007 Sep 25;116(13):1497-503. 
  3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):95-103. 
  4. American Thoracic Association 2010 International Conference. 2010 May 18. 
  5. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2005 Nov;289(5):R1392-9. 
  6. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Nov;84(5):1200-7. 
  7. Cardiology. 2009;112(3):219-23. 
  8. Cancer Res. 2009 May 1;69(9):3833-41. 
  9. JAMA. 2014 Jan 1;311(1):33-44. 
  10. American Academy of Neurology’s 60th Anniversary Annual Meeting, Chicago. 2008 April 12–19. Available at:

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Can Seaweed Prevent Prostate Cancer?

Maylin Rodriguez Paez RN

Seaweed, rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, is considered one of the healthiest foods in the world.

Research shows it may help to fight a number of diseases...and cancer may be one of them.

Interestingly enough, a special type of seaweed from Florida may actually help to combat prostate cancer, the most common cancer that affects men.

Sea Lettuce Boosts Antioxidant Enzymes that Protect Against Cancer

The study was conducted by the University of Florida. Scientists screened different species of seaweed and identified sea lettuce as having anti-cancer potential. They extracted several compounds from sea lettuce and tested them against prostate cancer cells.

The sea lettuce extracts worked in a unique way. Rather than just eliminate free radicals, they actually boosted the activity of antioxidant enzymes.1 This enabled antioxidants to increase in cells.

These enzymes provide long-lasting protection against cancer by preventing oxidative damage and inflammation. The lead investigator of the study, Dr. Hendrik Luesch, believes these extracts could be taken as a preventive pill one day to prevent prostate cancer and other diseases.

Japanese Men Tend to Have a Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer

The rate of prostate cancer varies from country to country. Japanese men tend to have lower rates compared to American men. When Japanese men move to the U.S. and adopt a Western diet, their risk increases over time and eventually equals that of the American population.2

This shows that diet could play a major role in developing the disease.

One difference in the Japanese diet is the inclusion of seaweed. They eat about 11 grams of seaweed a day and enjoy over 21 different varieties including sea lettuce. This may be a reason why Japanese men have lower rates of prostate cancer.

The Bottom Line

The University of Florida study emphasizes the importance of consuming seaweed as part of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, we haven’t caught on in the West and rarely eat seaweed, except for the occasional sushi roll.

Explore ways in which you may be able to enjoy seaweed in your diet — or supplement with it. Extracts containing fucoidans, the active component of seaweed, are available as dietary supplements.


  1. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2013 Sep;6(9):989-99. 
  2. Available at: Accessed August 7, 2014.

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Manganese: The Multifaceted Mineral

Manganese is an essential mineral needed in trace amounts by the human body.

It's involved in the production of energy, bone development, and the synthesis of collagen and protein.

The mineral forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme produced in the body that protects against oxidative stress and is necessary for life.

Manganese Deficiencies May Cause Osteoporosis

In addition to its vital role in the body's antioxidant defense, manganese helps protect bones and joints.

In the January 2012 issue of Frontiers of Bioscience, it was suggested that manganese deficiency, rather than calcium deficiency, could be the primary cause of osteoporosis.

The authors of the study also suggested that osteoporosis due to a lack of manganese could precede such disorders as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Another study reported that manganese improved learning and memory in mice.2

Manganese May Help Prevent Arthritis

Manganese may help prevent or reduce the severity of osteoarthritis, due to its role in the synthesis of glucosamine and chondroitin.

For this and other reasons, manganese has been added to a number of arthritis formulas.

Manganese Supports Nutrient Absorption and Lowers Glucose Levels

In his book, Zinc and Other Micronutients, Carl C. Pfeiffer, MD, PhD, observed that elevated copper levels associated with schizophrenia or other diseases can be lowered with increased intake of manganese and zinc.3

He noted that manganese is needed for fat metabolism, and the utilization of thiamin, biotin, choline, and vitamin C.

Dr Pfeiffer additionally noted that manganese insufficiency can increase blood glucose levels, and that the mineral may be deficient among diabetic individuals.

A study published in Biological Trace Element Research uncovered manganese deficiency in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics.4

Top Sources of Manganese

Manganese occurs in leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, and tea. However, modern food processing and soil erosion have resulted in foods that contain less than optimal amounts of manganese.

Fortunately, it’s also found in most multivitamin formulas.

Take the Right Amount of Manganese

Like all minerals, manganese has a potential for toxicity due to its ability to accumulate in the body.
Toxicity is likelier to be observed following inhalation in industrial settings.

Around 4 mg daily is suggested. This small amount can easily be obtained by consuming a healthy diet and supplementing whenever necessary.

Also worth noting is that the upper tolerable limit for manganese intake has been set at 11 milligrams per day.


  1. Front Biosci (Elite Ed). 2012 Jan 1;4:1385-90. 
  2. Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi. 2013 Jun;31(6):409-12. 
  3. Zinc and Other Micronutrients. New Canaan: Keating, 1978. 
  4. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Dec;156(1-3):79-90.

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6 Hidden Health Benefits of Melatonin

Maylin Rodriguez Paez RN

While your body is asleep, it’s raging an internal war. Melatonin, which we often refer to as the “sleep hormone”, serves as a useful ally.

The multi-faceted nature of melatonin is for the most part unknown. Currently, there is research suggesting it may protect, and even treat, certain diseases.

Below we’ve described some of the lesser-known benefits of this widely used supplement.

Melatonin is a Powerful Antioxidant

Did you know that melatonin is a powerful antioxidant? In fact, it’s about twice more potent than vitamin E, and it’s superior to glutathione and vitamin C in reducing oxidative damage.1-2

Studies indicate melatonin protects multiple organs against free radical damage, including the kidneys, brain, pancreas, and eyes.3-6

Melatonin Combats Obesity

The link between poor sleep and obesity is no longer a mystery. Melatonin, interestingly enough, is thought to play a role.

In animal studies, melatonin was found to suppress abdominal fat, plasma leptin (a hunger hormone), while also reducing weight and food intake.7

In addition, melatonin activates brown fat, which causes the body to burn fat rather than to store it8.

Melatonin Prevents Migraines

The cause of migraines has continued to baffle scientists. There is some information suggesting the pineal gland may play a role in the condition.9 Interestingly, this is the same gland that produces melatonin.

Research shows melatonin helps to alleviate migraine pain and reduce the frequency of headaches.10

In one particular study,more than two thirds of migraine patients using melatonin experienced at least a 50% reduction in the number of headaches per month.11

Melatonin Protects Your Bones

Preserving bone mass and strength should be a priority for all aging people, and melatonin could potentially help.

According to a recent study, melatonin was found to improve bone strength and thickness in aging rats.12 Several studies revealed that melatonin increases osteocalcin, a bone-building hormone.13

Melatonin Has Anti-Cancer Benefits

Melatonin supports the role of your immune system. That’s probably why it has notable anti-cancer effects.

According to a review of eight clinical trials, melatonin taken along with conventional treatments was shown to significantly increase the one-year survival rate of cancer patients.

Benefits were seen for breast, colorectal, brain, and lung cancers.14

Melatonin Protects Your Brain

Melatonin demonstrates its power especially in the brain, where it combats neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies indicate that melatonin protects against beta amyloid plaque, one of the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease.15

In addition it slows the cognitive decline associated with the condition.16

The Bottom Line

Even if you’re not having trouble sleeping, supplementing with melatonin may not be a bad idea, especially considering all of its newly emerging benefits.

Thinking of trying it? A good starting dose ranges between 300 mcg to 3 mg daily.


  1. J Neural Transm. 2005;112:349-58. 
  2. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2008 Sep;1(2):137-49. 
  3. Pharmazie. 2007 Sep;62(9):693-8. 
  4. J Pineal Res. 2001 Jan;30(1):22-8. 
  5. Exp Eye Res. 2004 Jun;78(6):1069-75. 
  6. Histol Histopathol. 2014 Apr;29(4):423-31. 
  7. Endocrinology. 2000;141:487-97. 
  8. Obes Rev. 2011 Mar;12(3):167-88. 
  9. Int J Neurosci. 1992 Nov-Dec;67(1-4):145-71. 
  10. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Aug;6(4):383- 9. 
  11. Neurology. 2004 Aug 24;63(4):757. 
  12. Rejuvenation Res. 2014 Aug;17(4):341-6. 
  13. Int J Mol Sci. May 2013; 14(5): 10063–10074. 
  14. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2012 May;69(5):1213-20. 
  15. J Pineal Res. 2004 May;36(4):224-31. 
  16. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2010 Sep;8(3):218-27.

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