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Selenium is a trace element that functions as part of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, a vital antioxidant enzyme system that protects cell membranes.
Selenium deficiency has been linked to Kashin-Beck's disease and Keshan disease. Selenium is found mostly in grains and seeds, though their selenium content depends on the amount of selenium in the soil in which they are grown. Seafood, kidney, liver, and other meats are also high in selenium.
The RDA for selenium is 55 mcg per day for men and women, 60 mcg per day for pregnant women, 20-40 mcg per day for children, and 40-55 mcg per day for adolescents. No adverse effects have been observed for selenium intakes under 750 mcg/d, but consumption of very large amounts can lead to negative effects on hair, nails, skin, and teeth.
For additional information (including a list of references), please refer to the selenium technical bulletin at http://www.usana.com/dotCom/company/science/components.