Selenium Supplement Beneficial for Many with HIV/AIDS

Selenium is a trace element that is found in many foods. In humans, selenium helps to regulate the thyroid and immune systems. Given the role selenium plays in the immune system, it is not surprising that it has been examined for potential benefits in fighting HIV/AIDS. However, other findings have suggested a number of possible benefits for taking selenium supplements.

The mineral selenium is an important nutrient that regulates the immune system..

For over a decade, scientists and researchers have known that selenium deficiency is common in patients with HIV/AIDS. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry back in 1994 suggested a possible cause for the deficiency.

It seems that HIV has a number of proteins that use selenium in the virus’ structure. The human body uses relatively little selenium, and the doctors who published the study suggested that the virus is basically siphoning up all the available selenium, and not leaving enough for the body to use.

The frequent selenium deficiency among people with HIV/AIDS is an established fact.

More debated subjects are the benefits that selenium supplements may offer, but small and medium scale studies have indicated that taking a selenium supplement may:

• Lower the viral load

• Reduce the likelihood of hospitalization

• Reduce incidence of anemia

• Increase T-cell count

• Reduce frequency of secondary infections

Large scale studies still need to be done to follow up on these initial, tentative findings. Currently, the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine is recruiting participants for a large scale trial of the effect of selenium supplements in Rwanda. This study is designed to test several potential benefits of selenium, including whether or not it lowers viral load, increases CD4 counts, and reduces opportunistic infections.

In 2009, an article was published in the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (JANAC) examining all the published studies on the use of selenium supplements available at that time. The conclusion of the authors was that there is evidence for the benefits of selenium, but the evidence is weak; however as selenium supplements has few side effects, and are not dangerous to take, there is no harm in taking the supplement before more evidence is available.

Regardless of the possible benefits selenium may provide in treating HIV/AIDS, the reality is that at the best of times, a nutritional deficiency can cause health problems. Anyone fighting HIV/AIDS needs to do everything possible to insure they are in the best of health, which includes addressing any possible nutritional deficiencies, and selenium deficiency is known to be common among people with HIV/AIDS.

Selenium supplements are widely available and relatively inexpensive – a one month supply can be had for under $20.

It is important to talk with your doctor before making changes in vitamin and mineral supplements which may affect your health and treatment plan. If you are not certain whether or not selenium supplements should be a part of your care, your doctor may be able to order tests to determine if you have a selenium deficiency.

Over all, while the final decision is awaiting further research, selenium supplements have every indication of being a good addition to the health care plans for many people with HIV/AIDS.

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  1. [...] are more subtle. Deficiencies in some nutrients are common in people with HIV/AIDS, including selenium, vitamin A, zinc, iron and others. These deficiencies often go undetected unless doctors order [...]

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