Updated: May 8
Selenium functions in synergy with vitamin E as an antioxidant. Vitamin E protects fats against lipid peroxidation within a horse's cell membrane, including the cell membranes of all immune cells.
New research by Dr. Ursini and colleagues at the University of Padua, Italy, has discovered a selenium-dependent enzyme, phospholipid hydroperoxide glutathione peroxidase, that shares the work. It detoxifies peroxidized fats within the membrane and therefore spares vitamin E.
It has been known for many years that selenium also works to activate the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase inside the cell itself. Glutathione peroxidase destroys toxic hydrogen peroxides and lipid peroxides. Adequate supplies of selenium are therefore crucial to strong immunity. In one series of studies, animals supplemented with selenium alone, increased their immune strength by 400%.
Other studies show that if selenium is deficient in the diet, the beneficial effect of vitamin E effect on immunity is also reduced. The strongest immune responses are found in horses supplemented with both nutrients together. In one recent study, horses made deficient in both vitamin E and selenium developed severely depressed immunity. Supplementation with the two nutrients restored T-lymphocyte responses to normal levels.
There are no studies on the effects of selenium supplementation on the immunity of athletes. From the chemistry of selenium, however, and from its effects on horses. it seems a prudent strategy to use this nutrient in synergy with vitamin E.
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