There are many supplements that supposedly help you lose weight. What about the essential mineral selenium, does it play a role in weight loss?
The relationship between vitamins and minerals and weight loss is often interesting. If there is any relationship, weight loss usually comes from resolving an insufficiency or avoiding an excess intake of the vitamin or mineral.
This is the case with selenium. Resolving a selenium insufficiency may benefit weight loss but more selenium will not always lead to weight loss.
Most people consume adequate amounts of selenium but depending on your current situation you may benefit in terms of weight loss and health from more.
If you think you think your levels of selenium may be insufficient you can get your levels measured to see if you should actively work on increasing your selenium intake. Even if it’s just for the health benefits you can expect.
Keep in mind that too much selenium can cause negative side effects. With certain foods like brazil nuts it’s very easy to reach the tolerable upper intake levels for selenium.
How selenium may help you lose weight
Vitamins and minerals play important roles in all kinds of processes inside of your body. If you don’t consume enough of these vitamins and minerals many of these processes take place in lesser or even zero amounts. This is usually bad for your health.
The opposite is also sometimes the case. Consuming too much of certain vitamins and minerals can cause negative side effects too.
Selenium levels in particular play a role in thyroid health. Resolving a selenium insufficiency can benefit your thyroid (1). A healthy thyroid in turn plays an important role in your metabolism, how many calories you burn (2).
In the US and Canada selenium insufficiencies are not very common (3). There is a chance this is something you need to take care of but for most people, there are likely other things to focus on when trying to lose weight.
It is hard to put resolving a selenium insufficiency into a certain number of extra calories burned. For most people this will not be the lifestyle change that instantly gets them to their dream weight. However, together with the health benefits, making sure that your selenium intake is sufficient may be worth it.
Do keep in mind that overdoing it with selenium can cause negative side effects too.
Selenium daily recommendations
Below you can find a table with the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for selenium for adults, infants, and children (3).
Obviously, not all people have the same bodyweight, body composition, and activity levels. Hopefully one day there will be more specific dosage recommendations available. For now, these are some general intake numbers you can aim at.
|0-6 months||15 mcg*||15 mcg*|
|7-12 months||20 mcg*||20 mcg*|
|1-3 years||20 mcg||20 mcg|
|4-8 years||30 mcg||30 mcg|
|9-13 years||40 mcg||40 mcg|
|14-18 years||55 mcg||55 mcg||60 mcg||70 mcg|
|19-50 years||55 mcg||55 mcg||60 mcg||70 mcg|
|51+ years||55 mcg||55 mcg|
An easy food example to get more selenium is brazil nuts with 1917 mcg per 100 grams (4). They are in fact so good that even just 5-6 medium brazil nuts can put you over the recommended maximum daily intake for adults (so don’t overdo it with them).
A more moderate but still relatively big source of selenium is halibut with about 46.8 mcg selenium per 100 grams (5).
People at risk of selenium deficiency
Selenium deficiencies are generally rare in countries like the United States and Canada. Nonetheless, some groups of people are more at risk of a selenium deficiency or inadequacy than others. Examples include (3):
- People living in selenium-deficient regions (levels of selenium in the soil influence selenium levels in food)
- People undergoing kidney dialysis
- People living with HIV
If you are in one of these groups you may need to pay more attention to get an adequate selenium intake. Do keep in mind that you can also overdo it with selenium, both from whole foods and supplements.
It may be smart to talk to your doctor and check your selenium levels before heavily supplementing or adding a lot of foods with selenium to your diet.
Ways to get enough selenium
In many cases it is luckily not that hard to increase your selenium levels. This can be done both naturally with whole foods and supplementing.
Eating whole foods with selenium in them is usually the most recommended way to increase your intake. The reason for this is the wide variety of additional nutrients you get.
Some examples of foods with relatively high amounts of selenium include:
- Brazil nuts: about 1917 mcg per 100 grams (4)
- Tuna (cooked): about 46.8 mcg per 100 grams (6)
- Halibut (cooked): about 46.8 mcg per 100 grams (5)
- Turkey (ground, cooked): about 37.2 mcg per 100 grams (7)
- Eggs (boiled): about 30.8 mcg per 100 grams (8)
- Brown rice (cooked): about 9.8 mcg per 100 grams (9)
When you know what foods to focus on it becomes a lot easier to reach your daily recommended intake for selenium. Besides these examples, meat and fish generally contain nice amounts of selenium. You can also find some amounts in certain vegetables, legumes, and other whole foods.
The next option to increase your selenium intake is by taking dietary supplements. These are pills, capsules, tablets, or liquids with concentrated quantities of selenium.
Since consuming vitamins and minerals in whole foods is recommended and foods with selenium are so easy to find, supplementing with selenium is often not needed.
Too much selenium can also cause negative side effects. That’s why it may be smart to talk to your doctor before heavily supplementing. At least keep a close eye on the dosage of the supplements and how much selenium is already in your diet.
Can you consume too much selenium?
One thing you do have to keep in mind is that you can also consume too much of certain vitamins and minerals. This is called the tolerable upper intake level, the highest level of nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population (10).
There are tolerable upper intake levels established for selenium. This means that having too much selenium can cause adverse health effects. These are currently the tolerable upper intake levels established for selenium (3):
|0-6 months||45 mcg||45 mcg|
|7-12 months||60 mcg||60 mcg|
|1-3 years||90 mcg||90 mcg|
|4-8 years||150 mcg||150 mcg|
|9-13 years||280 mcg||280 mcg|
|14-18 years||400 mcg||400 mcg||400 mcg||400 mcg|
|19+ years||400 mcg||400 mcg||400 mcg||400 mcg|
Again, only 5-6 medium brazil nuts alone can already put you over the tolerable upper intake levels for selenium.
Implementing more selenium into your diet or supplementing may slightly help weight loss if your selenium levels are currently too low. If your selenium levels are already normal, adding more selenium will likely not help weight loss.
Since selenium insufficiencies are not very common, most people will not lose weight by consuming more selenium.
Because there are tolerable upper intake levels you also don’t want to consume too much selenium. This can cause negative side effects. Before drastically increasing your selenium intake it may be smart to talk to your doctor first.
Exactly how many extra calories you will burn by resolving a selenium insufficiency is not clear. This will likely not be the thing that gets you to your dream weight. Even so, together with the other health benefits making sure that your selenium intake is sufficient may be worth it.