Selenium and Hair Testing
Selenium has anti-oxidant properties that similar to Vitamin E will prevent free radical damage to the cells. This important element also activates certain essential enzymes. Selenium is necessary for healthy hearts and in some cases has been shown to be an anti-cancer agent by reducing and preventing tumor growth in animal studies.
High Hair Selenium is usually not due to excessive cellular accumulation, but rather an external contamination. This can be due to the use of shampoos containing selenium. Medicated shampoos such as “Selsun Blue” are high in selenium and may be the cause of elevated hair levels of this mineral. High selenium may also indicate a loss of selenium through the hair.
If an external contamination of selenium is possible, then the reported level in a hair test may not be representative of the person’s actual current selenium status. Other sources of environmental selenium are the electronic, glass and paint industries for those workers who are exposed on a frequent basis.
Low Hair Selenium may be due to dietary deficiency, which is relatively common, especially among those who eat refined foods. Selenium may be given to help prevent or correct cadmium, mercury, or arsenic toxicity. Selenium is an anti-oxidant and may be given to help protect against free radical damage. (Note that excessive selenium supplementation may be toxic (RDA is 200 – 400 mcg daily). There is extensive research presently being conducted on the functions of selenium and iodine with regard to thyroid function and it is becoming clear that there is an interaction between the two that should be noted.
Selenium is also known to protect tissues against these adverse affects by binding with mercury rendering it less damaging. A low selenium-to-mercury ratio may be indicative of increased free radical production.