New studies are bringing to light the benefit of selenium to those with HIV/AIDS. It appears that HIV-infected individuals have low selenium levels, which may decline with disease progression. Sufferers tend to have mal-absorption problems, which deplete many nutrients levels, including selenium.
Selenium is a trace mineral that is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, a powerful antioxidant enzyme. Antioxidant nutrients such as selenium help protect cells from oxidative stress, thus potentially slowing progression of the disease. When one becomes selenium deficient immune cell counts decrease and the disease progresses at a faster pace. This may be due to oxidative stress and the damage it does to immune cells.
Adults and children with advanced AIDS display both highly depleted selenium plasma stores and reduced CD4 Cell counts. In a small study of 24 children with HIV, observed over five years, those with low selenium levels died at a younger age, which may indicate faster disease progression.
It is important for HIV-positive individuals to consume enough selenium in their diet and supplement if this is not possible. Selenium is found primarily in Brazil nuts, tuna, salmon, cod, egg, turkey, garlic, mushrooms and barley. For a healthy person a daily intake of 50-200mg of selenium is sufficient, but for those with compromised immunity an increase of 100% may be required to improve selenium levels. Selenium also works best in the presence of vitamin E, which is found in nuts, seeds, eggs and avocado.
Although rare, the symptoms of too much selenium are brittleness and loss of hair and nails, skin redness, blisters, vomiting, neurological defects and damage to the liver and spleen.
Selenium is not a substitute for antiretroviral therapy medications but rather an immune support that, in addition to a healthy lifestyle, may prolong the life of those with HIV/AIDS.