Selenium and Skin Health
October 10, 2014
It has often been said that the eyes are the windows into the soul. The skin also has the ability to offer glimpses into the cellular “soul,” and either radiates with a glow that speaks of health and vitality or reveals deficiencies and toxins harbored beneath its surface.
Acne vulgaris is one such condition that indicates deficiency and toxic burden. The skin condition is not just a cosmetic inconvenience, but often becomes a psychological pitfall leading to depression, anxiety and insecurity. Many view acne as merely a transient part of teen life and an unfortunate consequence of sebum overproduction spawned by hormonal changes and the presence of follicular Propionibacterium acnes triggering inflammation. Hence, traditional dermatology has pointed its finger at the pathogenic microbes and focused treatments on long-term tetracycline antibiotics and antibacterial facial cleansers. However, with an influx of antibiotic-resistant strains of P. acnes and with further research into the etiology of acne, it is becoming clear that the skin is trying to reveal additional complexities of this common condition.
Certainly, overactive sebaceous glands, hormonal changes and pathogenic microbes are elements of acne; however, recent research suggests that oxidative stress may be a larger player in this condition, as it is responsible not only for the pathology, but also the progression and severity. Significant changes within the body’s natural antioxidant enzyme systems were noted among acne sufferers and these changes directly correlated with the severity of the skin condition.
In studies used to verify the role of oxidative damage in the pathology of acne vulgaris, levels of glutathione peroxidase were measured among subjects with varying degrees of acne. Results showed a high statistically significant decrease in glutathione peroxidase levels in acne subjects compared to controls, indicating the body’s antioxidant systems were spent in an effort to reduce oxidative damage.
Many of the body’s antioxidant enzyme systems are dependent on nutrient availability for optimal functioning. Glutathione peroxidase is one such system that is selenium-dependent. A low plasma selenium concentration was correlated to low glutathione peroxidase activity, which positively responded to selenium supplementation This suggests that low glutathione peroxidase activity seen in acne subjects may also be increased by selenium supplementation. This would, in turn, increase antioxidant activity, decrease oxidative damage and reduce the severity and/or incidence of acne vulgaris. In one study, supplementation with 200 micrograms of selenium glycinate for 6 weeks was able to raise the activity of erythrocyte and plasma glutathione peroxidase Since dietary selenium is dependent on soil concentrations, deficiencies may exist when foods are grown in soils with inadequate selenium levels.
If oxidative stress is indeed a large factor in the pathology of acne vulgaris, then increasing antioxidant activity through supplementation with antioxidant-promoting nutrients such as selenium may be a logical choice in helping to alleviate this all-too-common skin condition.