Selenium, Alzheimer's and Competition for Nutrition

April 18, 2016

Selenium, Alzheimer's and Competition for Nutrition 

 Reference: Frontiers of Aging 2014, Mayo Labs, Science News 

 Selenium isn't a supplement we think about much. We get a fair amount of it when we eat Brazil nuts, but also broccoli, organ meats, seafood, grains and breads. Generally, it is thought that we need about 55 mcg a day as adults, though our midwest soils don't have much of it. Selenium binds lead and mercury quite avidly, which helps with detoxification of those poisonings, but also results in reduction of selenium in normal folks who have lead and mercury exposure. 

We now know that selenium is needed to activate T4 into T3, which makes for problems when we don't have enough in our diet. Just what does selenium do in the brain? That appears to be a key issue that has not been widely appreciated. Alzheimer's disease represents the coalescence of a wide variety of stressors on the human brain. Oxidative stress. 

Oxidative stress occurs when there is the inability to counteract that production of reactive oxygen that occurs in burning energy, particularly glucose. Something on the order of 2% of electrons escape the electron transport chain, and slip out to make oxygen negatively charged. CoQ10 is meant to be there to soak that stuff up. In the aging brain, we have less CoQ10 and we don't clean up those reactive oxygen species. As a consequence, we over-express an enzyme called NADPH Oxidase or NOX. Amyloid plaques also appear to play a role in turning on NOX. Glutathione is the compound that neutralizes NOX and turns off that oxidative stress. 

And it takes selenium to recharge glutathione. Aha! Selenium is critical to protect the human brain from oxidative stress. And oxidative stress appears to be central to the process of making Alzheimer's. We don't have clear proof yet that taking selenium reverses Alzheimer's, but we do have evidence that it's deficit is a problem.

 Where does competition come in? This is hard to do in humans because we can't simply remove organs and then study the effect. We can in mice. In mice, the Journal of Neuroscience this week reports that you can demonstrate in mice, given the circumstance of low selenium (know as the Midwest), the testes compete with the brain for the available selenium, to the brain's detriment. In an elegant experimental model of mice dependent on extra selenium by way of inbred gene mutations, one can demonstrate the same findings of selenium dependent brain degeneration that is fixed by castration, which removes the competition. With the testes in, the brain loses regardless.

 I know the temptation here for late night comics considering men's brain and testes, and which gets priority. We won't go there. For those of us men wanting to preserve our brains, we might want to ensure we get sufficient selenium. 

 www. What will work for me. This is a new indication for selenium. I try and eat a brazil nut or two here and there but I don't do it daily. Broccoli and seafood and liver I do. I've learned how to measure it and am doing so on myself and my clients. When I found out that Bredesen measures it on all his Alzheimer's patients, I get the message and am measuring it too.

 Pop Quiz:

  1.  Selenium is a metal needed for many functions in the body? T or F.           Answer:  That's true
  2.  Regeneration of what critical anti-oxidant protective protein is selenium's premier task?  Answer:    Glutathione
  3. Alzheimer's patients have demonstrated lousy brain protection from oxidation stress. T or F                        Answer:  That's it in a nutshell 
  4. Testes and brain fight over who gets selenium first, with the brain winning. T or F            Answer:  True for the fight, false for the brain winning 
  5.  You get all the selenium you need in the midwest because our soils are easily sufficient. T or F                          Answer:  Sadly not true. Locally bought and grown food is largely lacking.