Selenium is an essential trace mineral found in soil, water, and some foods. It is an important factor in many body processes. Studies have suggested that it has anti-aging properties and may even protect against age-related diseases.
This mineral is naturally present in the body, it gets stored in muscle tissue, though the thyroid is the organ with the highest concentration.
It is also an important component of enzymes called selenoproteins, which play an important role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, and DNA synthesis. These proteins are also powerful antioxidants.
Selenium increases antioxidant effects in the body. Crab, fish, poultry, and wheat are generally good food sources. The amount of selenium in the soil varies, and foods grown in different soils have different selenium levels.
The Anti-aging Benefits of Selenium
In a 2018 review from Cai Z and colleagues, researchers found that selenium contributes to the alleviation of reduced reactive oxygen species (free radicals) mediated inflammation, reduced DNA damage, and prolonged telomere length, and thereby plays roles in fighting aging and preventing aging-related diseases.
Another study from 2021 found that selenoproteins play a key role in controlling and removing misfolded proteins, which accumulate as we age, and are a common characteristic of aging and age-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
In a 2020 study, researchers evaluated for the first time the relationship between dietary selenium intake and leukocyte telomere length in an American population. The study included a total of 3,194 adults older than 45 years old that were extracted from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 1999-2000 and 2001-2002.
The team in this study found that increased dietary selenium intake was associated with longer telomere length among middle-aged and older adults in America and that every 20 microgram increase was associated with a 0.42% longer telomere length.
Telomeres are protective caps at the end of our chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age, and some consider their length as an informative biomarker of aging.
Benefits in Other Health Conditions
According to a meta-analysis, people with lower selenium levels are at a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
Selenium is believed to have anti-cancer properties due to its antioxidant effects. But studies have not been able to find solid results to back this claim.
Some studies have suggested that having optimal selenium levels can protect against thyroid disease and preserve overall health.
Experts believe that selenium antioxidant properties may protect from declines in brain function.
Lindsey DeSoto, RDN, LD. (2022, Mar 31). Does selenium really slow aging? Medical News Today. Retrieved from:
Yanling Shu, et al. Association of dietary selenium intake with telomere length in middle-aged and older adults. 2020. Clinical Nutrition. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.01.014
Cai Z, Zhang J, Li H. Selenium, aging and aging-related diseases. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2019 Aug;31(8):1035-1047. doi: 10.1007/s40520-018-1086-7. Epub 2018 Dec 3. PMID: 30511318.
Alehagen, U.; Opstad, T.B.; Alexander, J.; Larsson, A.; Aaseth, J. Impact of Selenium on Biomarkers and Clinical Aspects Related to Ageing. A Review. Biomolecules 2021, 11, 1478. https://doi.org/10.3390/ biom11101478