Can Excess Selenium Cause Hair Loss?

Did you know that the average person has nearly 100,000 individual hairs on their head, and each of these hairs can live up to four years before being replaced by new hair? If you are a man, or a women, I’m sure the thought of hair loss has crossed your mind as you age; however, the reality of hair loss may be all-too familiar among some. According to information published by MedlinePlus, hair loss may be caused by heredity, aging and testosterone levels; however, excessive amounts of selenium within your body can cause detrimental side effects, such as hair loss.

What is Selenium?

Selenium is an essential compound for your body; however, you only require small amounts of this compound. The main responsibility of selenium is to bind with protein molecules to manufacture selenoproteins, which is an antioxidant enzyme used by your body to protect and reverse damage caused by free radicals. Other responsibilities of selenoproteins include supporting your immune system and regulating your thyroid.

Selenium Levels and Hair Loss:

As your selenium blood levels rise, you can develop a condition known as selenium poisoning; however, the type of side effects developed from this poisoning is directly related to the amount of selenium introduced to your body. Selenosis is defined as chronic selenium poisoning, and this condition causes neurological damage, skin lesions as well as changes to nail and hair production.

One of the most common side effects of selenosis is hair loss, and if your selenium levels are not controlled then side effects such as vomiting, paralysis, convulsions and severe diarrhea can occur.

What Amount is Too Much?

Excessive selenium concentrations occurs when you consume more than 400 mcg of selenium per day; however, this excessive dosage will only cause damaging effects such as hair loss if this high level is reached on a daily basis.

Selenium is found in a variety of foods, and its concentration can dramatically vary. For example, 3.5 ounces of chicken breast contains around 20 micrograms of selenium while 1 ounce of Brazil nuts contain 544 micrograms of selenium.

It is comforting to know that while selenium is found in practically any food item, selenium poisoning is extreme rare. If you feel that you are experiencing hair loss due to selenium poisoning, visit your physician to have blood work done. These results will determine if excess selenium is the cause of your hair loss.

References Used:

MedlinePlus: Hair Loss

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Selenium

University of Maryland Medical Center: Selenium

Food Standards Agency: Selenium Risk Assessment

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