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Can selenium slow the ageing process?

assorted high-selenium foods

Selenium is a trace element essential to cellular function and evidence is mounting that it may even have anti-ageing effects.

In the never-ending quest to reverse the ageing process, could this chemical compound be the secret weapon we’ve been waiting for?

The chemical compound is required by the body in only trace amounts; in fact, consuming more than the tiniest amount can be toxic to humans and animals.

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It’s an important component of certain types of enzymes and proteins – known as selenoproteins – that play a key role in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism and DNA synthesis.

It occurs naturally in many foods including meat, nuts, cereals and mushrooms, and is also available as a dietary supplement.

Apart from its role in your body’s day-to-day functioning, evidence is growing that selenium may hold the key to reversing the ageing process.

When we say ‘reversing the ageing process’ we’re not just talking about smoothing out some wrinkles, but actually halting or reversing some of the biological processes that occur as we age.

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Getting older, biologically speaking, is a complex process involving molecular damage, metabolic imbalance, immune system changes and increased susceptibility to disease.

This 2018 study found selenium can dramatically reduce the risk of tumours, cardiovascular disease and certain neuropsychiatric disorders by boosting the body’s natural antioxidising process.

The researchers also found selenium reduced chronic inflammation, which is closely related to ageing.

Read: Podcast: How to reduce the risk of dementia through diet

Wrinkling and sagging skin from years of UV exposure are a common part of ageing but selenium may be able to halt that process as well.

There is evidence selenium protects your skin against UV light by countering the oxidisation process sunlight causes.

But the most convincing evidence of all for selenium’s anti-ageing effects is this 2020 study, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, which found that increased intake of dietary selenium was associated with longer ‘telomere’ lengths in those aged 45 and above.

Telomeres act as a kind of protective cap on the end of DNA molecules, stopping the ends of DNA strands from fraying or sticking to one another. As we age, these protective caps become smaller and smaller, so much so that some experts believe telomere length can be used to identify someone’s age.

Without the protective cap, our DNA gets more and more fragmented as time goes on, which leads to the inevitable diseases associated with ageing. So by reinforcing your telomeres with selenium, you can actually slow or even reverse the onset of age-related illnesses.

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