Could the mineral selenium be a missing component of your diet? And causing hormone imbalances or other problems such as impairing your thyroid function?
Kahramanmaras Sutcuimam University in Turkey has just published a study that analyzed the selenium levels in women with PCOS. They compared 36 women who had polycystic ovarian syndrome to 33 "healthy" women who did not have this condition.
They discovered that the women with polycystic ovary syndrome had significantly lower levels of selenium. In both groups, they found a correlation between low selenium and increased LH (luteinizing hormone) and testosterone. Note that increased LH and testosterone is a big component of the overall hormone imbalance that leads to symptoms of PCOS.
The authors of the study said that insufficient selenium "may play a role in the pathogenesis of PCOS related with hyperandrogenism [excessive male hormones]".
This mineral performs a variety of vital functions. It is an important antioxidant. It's a co-factor in thyroid function. In women who have an autoimmune disease of the thyroid (Hashimoto's disease), selenium appears to reduce the severity of the disorder. Adequate levels of this mineral may help to reduce some pregnancy complications as well as post-partum depression.
Low selenium is associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, both of which have some similarities with PCOS.
So selenium has a lot going for it.
But how do you know if you're too low? There's no easy way to know without a lab test. Moreover, dietary intake of this mineral varies around the world. One person may be getting enough from the diet will another may not. If you're consuming a diet consisting mostly of processed convenience foods, you could be too low in selenium.
It can be found in plant foods (such as nuts, seeds, grains), meats and seafood. However, the selenium of soils varies widely. This means that foods grown in selenium-poor soils will have less in them.
Because there's such a wide variance in selenium levels among the world's population, it might be advisable to take it as a supplement, such as 200 micrograms of selenium as "selenomethionine". High-quality multi-vitamin/mineral formulas contain this.
Given the association between low selenium and a multitude of diseases, including PCOS, a multi-mineral supplement sounds like a good idea.
Coskun A et al, Plasma selenium levels in Turkish women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2013 Mar 8. [Epub ahead of print]
Fulgoni VL 3rd et al, Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr. 2011 Oct;141(10):1847-54
Pasco JA et al, Dietary selenium and major depression: a nested case-control study.Complement Ther Med. 2012 Jun;20(3):119-23.
Toulis KA et al, Selenium supplementation in the treatment of Hashimoto's thyroiditis: a systematic review and a meta-analysis, Thyroid, 2010 Oct; 20(10): 1163-73.
Mistry HD et al, Selenium in reproductive health. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Jan;206(1):21-30. Sanmartin C et al, Selenium and clinical trials: new therapeutic evidence for multiple diseases. Curr Med Chem. 2011;18(30):4635-50.
Murphy J et al, Selenium status of Irish adults: evidence of insufficiency. Ir J Med Sci. 2002 Apr-Jun;171(2):81-4.
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