At one point during my Masters degree, my study partner had the opportunity to choose a journal article for me to write a review of. Knowing that I was “in to all that baby stuff”, the article he chose was titled “The Effects of Selenium Supplementation on Sperm Quality in Male Pigs”. Yup. I was like “What the frag?”. It totally caught me off guard… but he was on to something and I learned a lot on the subject.
Any deficiency in selenium can lead to immotile (poor swimmers), deformed sperm and infertility (in people too, not just pigs). This is not so good for trying to make babies. Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is an necessary component of several different enzyme systems and is found in all human tissues. How does this mineral help boost your swimmers?
1. Selenium has a significant impact on spermatogenesis. It is found in the seminal ducts and in the testes because it helps with the formation of new sperm. There is also evidence to suggest that selenium protects against DNA damage of sperm.
2. Antioxidant properties of selenium help fight free radical damage and oxidative stress. As an essential component of the glutathione peroxidases family, selenium helps catalyze reduction reactions to deactivate free radicals and other oxidizers by acting as an electron donor. (Too much chemistry jibber-jabber?) Oxidative stress is the microscopic equivalent to a hostile, dangerous, polluted environment, generally caused by high levels of inflammatory chemistry. Your body’s antioxidant defense system is important for all tissue health, from fighting cancer to building sperm that can swim in a straight(ish) line.
3. Selenium supports healthy testosterone levels. Though limited, there is some evidence to suggest that selenium supports healthy testosterone levels directly. This seems reasonable considering the implications on reproductive health and thyroid hormone balance (see below and consider that you really can’t mess with one hormone in the body without some way messing with the entire balance).
4. Selenium is absolutely essential for healthy thyroid function. It is required to convert T4 into the active form T3. This is an important conversion as it increases the potency of your thyroid hormone and enhances its peripheral activity. Your thyroid hormones play a major role in metabolic rate, temperature control, bone health, mood disorders, and hormone balance…. Oh, and reproductive health too. Pretty much everything.
Semen is high in selenium, so it needs to be replenished regularly (especially when you are having loads of sex).
Studies on supplementation to restore healthy selenium levels in blood and semen and reduce infertility have been a bit inconsistent. There seem to be several factors at play, including the chemical form of the selenium supplement, whether it was supplemental or food based, the quality of the supplement, and thyroid health. The degree of effectiveness of selenium support may be associated with the level of deficiency and it is possible to have too much a good thing. Goldilocks was on to something; it needs to be just right.
Most sources recommend around 100 micrograms (mcg) a day. The US RDA is 55mcg, whereas the UK RDA is 75mcg and the WHO RDA is 70-350mcg a day. Selenium can be toxic in large doses, so I wouldn’t recommend venturing over 200mcg a day without clinician supervision (even though toxicity is not generally noted until over 500-900mcg).
The selenium content in your food depends greatly on soil quality, so it does matter where your food is sourced. Foods generally rich in selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Herring, tune, sardines, salmon, cod
- Calf liver and other organ meats
- White beans
If you are looking for supplemental forms, search out organic forms like selenomethionine, selenocysteine, and selenium aspartate. Sodium selenite is less bioavailable.
You need healthy swimmers to make healthy babies. And you need to constantly restore your selenium stores because you are having so much fabulous sex. So get to work.