Selenium deficiency

Symptoms of selenium deficiency are present only in people who live in areas where there is little selenium in the soil. Some parts of Europe, U.S., New Zealand and China are places where there is small amount of selenium in the soil.

Selenium deficiency occurs in the critical group of people, such as alcoholics, people who consume processed food and fast food, people with HIV, people with liver disease, people with Down syndrome and diagnosed with fibrocistyc breast disease.

Selenium deficiency causes enlargement of the heart, which eventually leads to congestive heart failure, as well as atrophy of the cells of the pancreas. This in turn leads to inadequate secretion of lipase.

Keshan disease is endemic cardiac myopathy that occurs in areas where the soil does not have enough selenium (parts of China). This disease is characterized by heart failure, increasing cardiac arrhythmias, electrocardiographic changes. It affects mainly children and women.

Kashin-Beck disease is endemic osteoatrophy and is characterized by weakness, joint stiffness, pain, degeneration and necrosis of the joints. It also occurs in areas where the soil has small amount of selenium (parts of China).
Kashin-Beck disease Kashin-Beck disease
In parts of China where there is not enough selenium in the soil occurs Kashin-Beck syndrome

Selenium deficiency in youth can cause more skin wrinkles in old age.

Other disorders that occur due to lack of selenium are:

  • Cancer is more common in people that lack selenium in their diets and glutathione peroxidase (an enzyme which contains selenium). The most common cancers that occur due to a lack of selenium are cancer of the colon and lung cancer.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Selenium deficiency leads to weakening of the heart muscle and the emergence of coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, platelet agglutination, myocardial infarction, as well as increased levels of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which play a role in inflammation and platelet aggregation.
  • HIV / AIDS. The level of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which plays an important role in the antioxidant enzyme activities are reduced in patients with HIV, particularly in patients at an advanced stage of the disease. Low levels of selenium is associated with low CD4+ lymphocytes and increased mortality of patients who do not intake enough selenium.
  • Problems in pregnancy. Low level of selenium leads to infertility, but also it can lead to miscarriage during pregnancy, as well as poor development of the placenta.
  • Asthma,
  • Rheumatoid arthritis,
  • Cataract,
  • Anemia,
  • Bad mood,
  • Muscle weakness,
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure


Selenium poisoning has been described in humans and animals, but there is not a clear mechanism of intoxication. Early symptoms of selenium poisoning is the smell of garlic on the breath as a result of expiration of dimethyl selenide. It is likely that selenium poisoning is due to occupational exposure in the electronic glass and colors industry.

This problem occurs in areas where there is relatively high levels of selenium in the soil. The first description of selenium toxicity in animals was given by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century.

Selenosis is associated with intake of more than 12 mmol (1 miligram) per day, leading to weight gain, fatigue, dry hair, the incidence of tooth decay in children, depigmentation of the skin, vomiting, loss and damage nails, hair loss, neurological abnormalities that include paraesthesia, paralysis and hemiplegia.