Selenium: The Super Veggie Mineral That Fights Cancer

Cancer remains one of the most challenging medical issues faced today. The immune system is designed to protect the body by fighting off harmful cells, but it isn’t always equipped to handle the devastation cancer can wreak. One particular mineral, however, has shown potential to help enhance the immune system and aid in its battle against cancer: selenium. Abundant in foods such as broccoli and garlic, selenium may help to improve our immunity when it comes to fighting off tumors.

##Immune System Over-Activation

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen discovered that aggressive cancers such as melanoma, prostate cancer, and leukemia can cause the immune system to over-activate. When these cancerous cells defend themselves by releasing liquids that over-stimulate the body’s immune response, the cells that would typically recognize the presence of cancer lose their defensive function.

According to researcher Søren Skov, the over-activation of the immune system causes it to “collapse”. Thus, blocking this mechanism becomes an area of great interest for cancer research. Skov’s research team found that certain selenium compounds naturally found in foods like garlic and broccoli can effectively block the immunostimulatory molecule responsible for this detrimental over-activation.

##The Role of NGK2D Ligands

The Swedish study conducted by Skov and his colleagues focused on compounds called NGK2D ligands. These molecules are utilized by cancer cells to disarm the body’s immune response and are found on the surface of cancer cells and inside the blood of affected individuals.

Their findings show that selenium compounds appear to have a beneficial effect in neutralizing the NGK2D ligands, both in their soluble form and when the molecule is found on the cell surface.

##Why Is Selenium Effective?

Selenium not only possesses antioxidant properties that benefit the immune system, but it also plays a crucial role in helping the body produce selenoproteins. These proteins act as antioxidants and work to prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. As a result of these valuable functions, selenium can help the immune system to work more efficiently in fighting off infections and maintaining overall health.

While research is ongoing, the findings thus far suggest that dietary selenium from whole food sources like garlic, broccoli, Brazil nuts, and various types of seafood, may be helpful in reducing the risk of certain cancers.

##The Importance of a Balanced Diet

It’s worth noting that it’s essential to maintain a balanced diet and ensure you’re consuming the proper amount of selenium. While having an adequate selenium intake is vital for immune system support and overall health, consuming too much of the mineral can lead to adverse side effects such as hair loss, gastrointestinal upset, and even nerve damage.

The recommended daily allowance of selenium can vary depending on factors such as age and sex. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), adult men and women should aim to consume approximately 55 mcg of selenium each day. Pregnant and lactating women may require slightly higher amounts, around 60-70 mcg daily.

It’s always important to consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet, particularly when aiming to increase or decrease your intake of certain minerals or supplements.


While the fight against cancer is ongoing, discoveries like these offer promising advancements in preventing and treating various types of cancer. Incorporating selenium-rich foods, such as garlic and broccoli, as part of a well-rounded, healthy diet may help to support immune system function and improve the body’s ability to combat the devastating effects of cancer. But remember, moderation is vital when it comes to consuming any nutrient; always consult with a healthcare professional if you’re unsure of the appropriate amount for your individual needs.