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Selenium against the damage of heavy metals and pollutants

December 01, 2023
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Selenium against the damage of heavy metals and pollutants

Heavy metals and drug residues, here are examples of substances that can pollute the environment, the water we drink and the food we eat, thus entering our body. But what happens when these substances, although below the levels considered safe, come together and form a mix inside the body? The study we are talking about today answers the question, showing that this combination can be toxic to health. But scientists didn't stop there, also offering a possible ally to counteract the harmful health effects of these pollutants, selenium. So, let's try to understand what this very recent and very interesting research published in the journal Science of The Total Environment by a Spanish team says (Huertas Abril et al, Science of The Total Environment, 2023).

Heavy metals and drugs, the combination that is harmful to health

The heavy metals arsenic, cadmium and mercury can pollute the environment in which we live and enter our bodies, resulting in a potential health risk. Heavy metals, in fact, are considered toxic. But the dangers don't stop with heavy metals. Given the high consumption of drugs, these can contaminate the environment and return to us through food, with uncertain effects on health, which have yet to be explored in depth. Hence the importance of setting maximum levels below which a certain substance is considered incapable of causing damage to health. However, the studies carried out up to now have always focused on substances taken individually, never on combinations of multiple substances, which is more likely to happen. What happens, therefore, in the case of mixtures of toxic substances even if they are below the safety limits? Let's see what today's research says.

The harmful effects of combinations of multiple pollutants and the hope of selenium

The study was conducted in the laboratory on a population of mice. Scientists tested the effects of a mixture of substances that can easily form, given by the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium and mercury and the drugs diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, and flumequine, an antibiotic. What has emerged is that the combination of substances activates a synergy that is harmful to health, which maximizes the adverse effects that appear even more powerful than those of the substances taken individually. The damage has been studied in particular at the liver level, whose functionality is altered by the mixture of pollutants that trigger a state of continuous threat to the body's defenses. But fortunately, scientists did not stop there and also provided an ally against these damages. It turned out that selenium helps to counteract the harmful effect caused by the synergy of pollutants.

Conclusions, risks and warnings

Environmental pollutants are a health risk, as they can enter our body through daily actions, such as breathing, drinking and eating, and can accumulate in the body, causing damage. Today we have seen that you can never be too careful and that, even if these harmful substances do not exceed the established limits, a combination of them can be dangerous. Hence the importance of consuming quality foods and drinks, checked and purchased in well-known shops. The water can then be filtered or purchased from your local store. Not only that, as we have seen in today's article, help can also be given by foods rich in selenium, since, as we have seen, selenium inhibits the harmful action of heavy metals and drug residues and their toxic synergies. Selenium is found in Brazil nuts. One Brazil nut ensures the required daily intake of selenium, so it is important to limit ourselves to this quantity, especially if we want to consume Brazil nuts regularly. To a much lesser extent, other sources of selenium are sardines, shellfish, whole grains, including brown rice, and eggs. Selenium also exists in the form of a supplement, but in this case always contact a doctor to avoid do-it-yourself and a possible overdose. In fact, selenium, if taken in high doses as can happen with supplements, can cause brittle nails and hair loss, nausea, skin rash, tiredness, diarrhea and irritability.

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