Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Take the Tablets; MEDICAL NOTES

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Take the Tablets; MEDICAL NOTES

Article excerpt

Byline: DR MARK PORTER

NEW research from the States suggesting a link between osteoarthritis and a lack of selenium in the diet is bound to fuel growing interest in the health benefits of this essential mineral, particularly as the average British diet contains barely half the recommended daily intake of 60mcg for a woman and 75mcg for a man. So, could a daily supplement protect the one in eight of us who will develop troublesome arthritis?

Low levels of selenium are associated with a number of health problems.

This latest study found that people with high blood levels of the mineral were half as likely to develop severe osteoarthritis of the knee, while others have linked low levels to an increased risk of developing cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and eczema. But is it lack of selenium that is responsible for these problems, or is it a marker for general dietary inadequacy?

Ten years ago, scientists got very excited when they discovered that people with low levels of antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E) were more likely to develop degenerative diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Unfortunately, adding these vitamins into the diet in the form of high-dose supplements has subsequently been found to have little or no impact on these diseases - indeed, in some studies, they actually make matters worse. What doctors

are now realising is that naturally high levels of these vitamins are simply indicative of a healthy, balanced diet, and that it is this, rather than the vitamins themselves, which offers the protective effects.

In other words, people with high vitamin C levels are likely to be eating a diet rich in fruit such as oranges, and there are many more beneficial nutrients in an orange than just vitamin C. Why should selenium be any different?

Bottom line? People in the UK only average half the recommended daily intake of selenium and this may have a number of long-term health consequences, including an increased risk of arthritis. But before you reach for the supplements, try boosting your intake naturally.

Good sources of the mineral include Brazil nuts, seafood, poultry and meats, and flour imported from countries where the soil is rich in selenium (such as North America). …

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