vitamins and minerals

Boys, Listen Up! This Mineral Can Make Or Break Your Swimmers

Selenium deficiency can lead to infertility

Selenium is a major micro-mineral antioxidant important for immune and thyroid function, breast health in women, and male fertility. Men lose selenium with every ejaculation and deficiency has been linked to low sperm count, poor motility and odd morphology (shape). During pregnancy, it maintains healthy blood pressure, and a deficiency has been linked to Down syndrome and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Selenium deficiency can not only lead to infertility, but can also increase the risk of heart failure, cancer, liver disease, hair loss, and skin changes.

Functions of Selenium:

Conquers viruses

Low selenium status can lead to increased virulence of pathogens. Selenium has been shown to reduce pathogen-induced oxidative stress and minimize their ability to mutate into more aggressive forms.

Responsible for thyroid hormone metabolism

Selenium regulates the movement of iodine between different types of hormones produced by the thyroid gland. It also monitors the amounts of thyroxine accumulated in the liver and kidneys, inactivating any excess.

Protects fetal tissues

The developing embryo could be harmed by high levels of thyroid hormones in the mother’s body. Selenium protects the fetus by neutralizing some of its strength.

Maintains healthy insulin levels in the body

Selenium plays a crucial role in reducing high insulin in the blood.

Gene expression and cell replication

Selenium is involved in gene expression and cell replication. It plays a role in apoptosis – a cell is instructed to self-destruct because it is defective. Animal studies have shown that selenium-deficient rodents have more tumor formations than those with normal selenium status.

Form of sperm

Selenium maintains the shape of sperm mitochondria (cell energy generator).

Super antioxidant

Selenium protects fatty acids from oxidation. Sperm are mainly made up of essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids can easily oxidize and go rancid. For sperm, this means abnormal sperm parameters leading to infertility. Tight underwear, testicular varicose veins, hot baths, and sports like cycling can all raise scrotal temperature, leading to fatty acid oxidation and sperm abnormalities.

Egg development

Animal studies have shown that a selenium deficiency leads to poor egg development and an increase in birth defects.

What causes the deficiency?

A poor nutritional intake of selenium is the main cause of deficiency. Selenium comes in many forms, some are water soluble. In this form, much of the selenium is lost during cooking and food storage.

depleted soil

Some soils like Australian, New Zealand, and Chilean soil as well as soil around the United States (parts of the Pacific Northwest, parts of the Great Lakes region moving eastward into the New Zealand states England and parts of the Atlantic coast) have been identified as selenium deficient regions. Where the soil is selenium depleted, food sources grown in such soil will also be selenium depleted.

Drug interaction

Glucocorticoids – a group of widely used anti-inflammatories deplete the body’s selenium stores.


Selenomethionine is a good form of selenium for supplementation.

Positive nutrient interactions

Studies have shown that vitamin E and selenium together have protective and beneficial effects on sperm quality. This combination is often used successfully in the treatment of male infertility.

Food sources

Onions, garlic, cereals, Brazil nuts, lean meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables to a lesser extent. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. Men should have 2-3 Brazil nuts a day to keep their sperm in good shape.

Recommended daily allowance

55 µg/day during preconception care in women, 55 µg/day in men

60 µg/day during pregnancy

70 µg/day while breastfeeding

Recommended therapeutic dose

In men with sperm abnormalities, 200 to 400 micrograms of selenium has been shown to improve overall sperm function. Doses above 400 micrograms have been shown to be toxic and should be avoided.


Groper S, Smith J, Groff J. 4th ed. 2005. “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism” Thomson, USA

Keene, I. 2008. “Natural Fertility Prescription”, Australian Natural Therapeutics, Switzerland.

Keskes-Ammar L, et al. Sperm oxidative stress and the effect of oral vitamin E and selenium supplementation on sperm quality in infertile men. ArchAndrol. 2003 Mar-Apr;49(2):83-94.

Copyright 2009 Iva Keene and Natural Fertility Prescription

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