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Selenium and The Sickle Cell Disease


Selenium and The Sickle Cell Disease

Research has shown that when there is a low level of selenium in patients with SCD, it results in the destruction of red blood cells, which in other words is called hemolysis. In response to this finding, the health experts who carried out this research, highly recommend that SCD patients include selenium-rich foods in their dieting.

Hemolysis, which is a result of a deficiency in selenium in SCD patients can cause Oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance in the production and clearance of toxic free radicals. It can also be referred to as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).

Nutrients like zinc, selenium, vitamin A, E and C forms an antioxidant defence mechanism which inhibits the production of ROS as well as oxidative damage in fats. These specific nutrients, selenium inclusive, also supports the activity of enzymes that are key to the inhibition of ROS production.

Selenium is a component of amino acid selenocysteine and is an active constituent of glutathione peroxidase helps maintain the antioxidant activity of an enzyme that protects haemoglobin from oxidation and red blood cells. Selenium is also key in the development and maturation of erythrocytes, which acts as defence against the damage caused by oxidation.Selenoneine, an antioxidant that is derived from selenium, found present in the blood of bluefin tuna, has been a subject of scientific and biological experiments due to its potential roles in chronic and inflammatory diseases, oxidative damages and methylmercury detoxification.

In a research conducted by a team from Universidade do Estado Rio de Janeiro in Brazil discovered that “low serum concentrations of selenium were directly associated with hemolytic events, which may aggravate the condition of these patients and results in more severe complications.”Sickle Cell Disease News2019, Sickle Cell Patients’ Diet Should Be Rich in Selenium, Researchers Say

Another scientist from the team said, “an adequate intake (of selenium) may probably improve SCD patients’ clinical status. Thus, we recommend the inclusion of an increased amount of selenium-rich foods in their diet.”

The following food types are rich in selenium;

  • ·         Dairy products
  • ·         Organ meats
  • ·         Cereals
  • ·         Other grains
  • ·         Seafood
  • ·         Mushrooms
  • ·         Nuts
  • ·         Barley
  • ·         Beer
  • ·         Butter
  • ·         Brewer’s yeast
  • ·         Brown rice
  • ·         Cabbage
  • ·         Chicken
  • ·         Cider vinegar
  • ·         Cinnamon
  • ·         Clams
  • ·         Vegetables
  • ·         Onions etc
  • The Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of selenium diets. Selenium can also be found in organic compounds like dimethyl selenide, selenomethionine and methyl selenocysteine.
  • Selenium can be toxic if it is taken in excess, exceeding 400 micrograms per day. Some of the harmful effects of excess selenium include;
  • ·         Hair loss
  • ·         Fatigue
  • ·         Neurological damage
  • ·         Garlic odour
  • ·         Gastrointestinal disorders etc.


Aside lack of intake of nutrients rich in selenium, deficiency of selenium can also be traced to increased renal excretion of SCD patients and tubular reabsorption, which can lead to a loss of nutrients due to the repeated sickling process of red blood cells.

The role of selenium goes beyond a protective antioxidant. It also increases the activity of the transcription factor GATA-1 (GATA-binding protein 1).Its deficiency can be responsible for erythroid differentiation, and inhibits the transportation of heme in the erythroblastic islands.

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