Micronutrient deficiencies have become a major topic among scientists. Studies clearly suggest that even a carefully balanced diet has its shortcomings, at least when it comes to specific micronutrients such as selenium. In Great Britain, for instance, the intake of selenium has been reduced by over 50% in the last two to three decades.
Even a diet rich in fish and shellfish, which are two high-selenium food sources, failed at providing enough selenium to trigger the protective effect that a group of Danish scientists had hoped to see. In their study from 2015, which was carried out in collaboration with the Danish Cancer Society, the scientists asked a large group of male and female volunteers to consume 200 grams of seafood daily for six months. The aim was to see if the prescribed diet could saturate Selenprotein P (SelP), which is one of the most essential selenoproteins. This would normally require a daily selenium intake of around 100 micrograms, but for some reason the diet they consumed was not enough.
A success – even 30 years later
The Finnish selenium project appears to have worked perfectly. At the international selenium conference in Stockholm in August 2017, a leading scientist from Finland presented facts and figures from the more than 30 years that have passed since the law was originally introduced. The Finnish selenium intake level remains adequately high, so there are no immediate plans of abandoning the project or lowering the amount of selenium added to the soil.
Selenium deficiency in organic farming
In recent years, experts have pointed to an interesting shortcoming of organic farming. Most people automatically think that organic crops are healthier than conventionally grown crops, but this is not always the case. If selenium levels in the agricultural soil are low, the crops that are grown in that soil will be correspondingly low, unless selenium is added to the soil (like in Finland).
However, because organic farming prohibits the addition of any substance that does not originate from the soil, the low-selenium cycle will live on in the organically grown crops and the organic meat and dairy from animals feeding off those crops. It is a closed environment for better or for worse.
Health-conscious consumers are bound to benefit from consuming organic food, but a daily selenium supplement may be worth considering.