5 Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis And Selenium (Eat More Bacon!)

Written by Heidi Mertlich

Bacon lovers – great news. There’s another reason to eat bacon: it can help prevent rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

rheumatoid arthritis selenium

Okay, okay, you may be thinking we’re pulling your leg. But, bear with us. Here’s the thought process:

  1. Bacon contains selenium.
  2. Selenium is a trace mineral with antioxidant properties.
  3. Studies have shown that antioxidant properties, such as those found in selenium, aids in the prevention of rheumatoid arthritis.

Vegetarian friends – there’s vegetarian food that’s even higher in selenium than bacon. (Take that, bacon!)

Here’s 5 Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis And Selenium You Need To Know: 

1. Background On Selenium

2. Research Shows Selenium May Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment With Selenium Is Inconclusive

4. Sources Of Selenium (It’s Not Just Bacon!)

5. Dosage Is Important

1. Background On Selenium

The National Institutes of Health describes selenium as:

Selenium is a trace element that is naturally present in many foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Selenium, which is nutritionally essential for humans, is a constituent of more than two dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection. -National Institutes of Health, Office Of Dietary Supplements

Most Americans receive adequate levels of selenium through their diet. Intake of selenium varies somewhat by region in the United States.

For example, if you live in the Midwest or Western U.S., concentrations of selenium are higher than if you live in the South or Eastern portion of the U.S. Varying levels of soil concentrations and types of food consumed account for the differences.

According to the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic:

  • Selenium is needed for normal growth and health
  • Selenium is necessary for enzymes that control normal functions of the body
  • Selenium has antioxidant properties
  • In the United States, men have higher concentrations of selenium than women
  • Selenium deficiency is uncommon in the United States
  • Excessive selenium is associated with health risks such as nausea, fatigue and hair loss

2. Research Shows Selenium May Help Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis

Multiple peer-reviewed studies indicate a direct relationship between low levels of selenium and rheumatoid arthritis. For example, Serum selenium concentrations in rheumatoid arthritis, an article published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine states:

It is speculated that serum selenium concentrations may modulate the effect of viral or other infections in subjects with the appropriate genetic background and in this way enhance the development or progression of rheumatoid arthritis. -Annals of Rheumatic Diseases

In other words, selenium is crucial in the regulation of inflammation in the body.

Moreover, selenium (and iodine) aids in the production of joint-protecting cartilage, a key component of joint health. We all know how important cartilage is for movement, arthritis pain management and overall quality of life.

Bottom line – If selenium levels are too low, your risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis increases.

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment With Selenium Is Inconclusive

Here’s where it gets tricky. While research has shown that ideal levels of selenium can help prevent the development of rheumatoid arthritis, the jury is still out on if it can effectively treat RA.

The Scandinavian Journal Of Rheumatology  conducted a double-blind, placebo controlled trial on selenium supplementation on rheumatoid arthritis patients. Their findings were interesting:

Trials with selenium have been conducted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) to correct impaired selenium status and increase defenses against deleterious oxidant species… Selenium treatment did not show clinical benefit on RA. Interestingly, the improval in both groups demonstrated a placebo effect of the intervention trial. -National Institutes of Health

Here’s the details of what they’ve found:

  • 55 patients participated in the 90 day trial
  • The participants received either selenium-enriched yeast (200 microg/d) or a placebo
  • The number of swollen and painful joints, and morning stiffness significantly decreased with time in both groups
  • Significant improvement in arm movements and health feeling was evidenced in selenium-treated patients only

Bottom line – while there hasn’t been a statistically significant study to prove selenium is an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, health benefits are evident.

4. Sources Of Selenium (It’s Not Just Bacon!)

rheumatoid arthritis selenium

Selenium is found in many of the foods we eat. In fact, in most cases, supplementation is not required if you are able to eat a healthful, variety-rich diet.

Let’s look at some top dietary sources of selenium:

  1. Nuts – a handful of nuts per day provides plenty of nutritional benefits. Brazil nuts, specifically, are about the highest nutritional source of selenium. You’ll get over 100% of your daily selenium needs with each serving.
    1. Watch out, though. A chronically high consumption of brazil nuts (more than the recommended daily serving of 6-8 nuts) can put you at risk for excessive levels of selenium.
  2. Spinach – Popeye’s favorite food will increase your selenium levels. One cup is equal to approximately 16% of your daily recommended value.
  3. Fish – it’s your friend. The fatty oils in fish provide anti-inflammatory benefits to those with RA. Yellowfin tuna, halibut and sardines are all especially excellent sources of selenium.
  4. Beef – especially the grass-fed type is a great source of selenium. A 3 oz serving (picture a deck of cards) provides around 47% of your daily recommended value.
    1. Don’t forget beef liver. A 3 oz serving provides 40% of your daily needs.
  5. Eggs – a miraculous food, packed full of nutrition. One single (large) egg will give you 21% of your daily recommended value.
  6. Turkey – if you prefer white meat over red, you’re in luck. Turkey is competitive with beef. A 3 oz serving provides 44% of your daily needs.
    1. Another poultry source, chicken (3 0z), provides 31% of your daily needs.
  7. Bacon! – is on par with spinach in terms of the amount of selenium provided per serving. A couple slices will give you around 16% of your daily needs. A spinach and bacon salad sounds like a perfect combination.

5. Dosage Is Important

The National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, provides specific daily recommendations for selenium for individuals based on age. Gender does not matter.

  • Birth – 6 months: 15 mcg
  • 7 months – 3 years: 20 mcg
  • 4 – 8 years: 30 mcg
  • 9 – 13 years: 40 mcg
  • 14 years and older: 55 mcg *

*Pregnant individuals need 60 mcg and those who are lactating need 70 mcg.

Selenium is an element that is important to receive the proper dosage.

Excessive selenium intake overtime is associated with:

  • garlic breath
  • diarrhea
  • brittle hair or nails
  • loss of hair
  • irritability
  • nausea
  • metallic taste in mouth
  • skin rashes
  • discolored teeth

Inadequate selenium is associated with:

  • higher risk for chronic disease
  • increased rates of infertility
  • poor immune function
  • cognitive decline
  • increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis

Bottom line – ask your rheumatologist or primary care physician if you are concerned about your selenium levels.

Who We Are

We specialize in working with clients with rheumatoid arthritis find the highest quality life insurance protection at the best prices available. If you have RA and are seeking out life insurance, it’s crucial to collaborate with an agent with a deep understanding of RA. At Rheumatoid Life Insurance, our job is to be your advocate. As an independent life insurance agency, we will cross-reference the top-rated life insurance companies to find the best rate for which you can be approved.

To get started, fill out our Instant Quote form

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