¡°Selenium is the only nutrient that has direct relation with viral infection¡±
Selenium, as a kind of nutrient, has certainly the same immune functions as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and zinc, but all the functions of them are indirect and are brought into play through regulating the immunity of human body. However, selenium has a special function i.e. preventing viral gene from mutation to influence the pathogenicity of viruses, which is not available to all other trace nutrients with immunity regulating functions.
Lingane: During the rampancy of SARS last year, I learned that you had published an article in ¡°Liberation Daily¡±, thinking that selenium is the only nutrient that has direct relation with viral infection. As an authority in the field of selenium study, why had you said so? In addition, I have heard your argument has been widely cited at home¡..
Chen Junshi: I don¡¯t know my article has generated such a result as you said. Why it is said to be the only one? First, I should say, in the scope of nutrients including protein, fat, carbohydrates, energy as well as the so-called trace nutrients such as Vitamin and minerals, selenium, as a mineral or a trace element is a member of the nutrients. Selenium is essential to the human body, and among so many proteins, fat and minerals, selenium is the only protein that bears a close or direct relation with viral infection. We have various kinks of trace nutrients that have a certain relation with viral infection, such as Vitamin C and E, which are able to strengthen the resisting capacity of the people against the invasion of outside microorganism through regulating immune function, and selenium, as a nutrient with a function of regulating the immunity, has the same function as that of Vitamin B, Vitamin E and zinc, but all these functions are indirect, and are brought into play through regulating the immunity of human body. However, selenium has a special function i.e. preventing viral gene from mutation to influence the pathogenicity of viruses, which is not available to all other trace nutrients with immunity regulating functions, such as Vitamin C, which has not such a function of preventing viral gene from mutation. Therefore, I say the function of selenium is direct. There are many viruses, such as SARS virus, poultry flu virus and epidemic influenza virus. They are everywhere and once they have a sudden change, they will be very strong in causing diseases and threatening the health of human being.
In June 2003, I published an article in ¡°the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Newspaper¡±, wherein I discussed the possible relation between selenium and SARS. Now some evidences are available to demonstrate my point of view:
The first evidence is that some American scientists have found a Coxsackie¡¯s M3 virus. This virus itself has no capacity to invade into the heart of rats to cause myocardial pathology, but if selenium is deficient in the body of rats, a mutation will happen in the virus, leading to damage to the cardiac muscle of the rats and further to myocardial pathology. That is to say, a virus naturally without capacity to cause disease will become a virus withstrong toxicity to the cardiac muscle under the condition of selenium deficiency.The second evidence is the flu viruses, each of them has its own pathogeneic capacity. For example, the flu virus spread this year is very strong in toxicity, but other viruses are not so strong. Experiments show under the condition of selenium deficiency, flu viruses also might undergo a mutation, leading to an increase of toxicity. During the spread of SARS last year, many studies conducted by foreign scientists on SARS virus have found the virus is easy to mutate. In the past, the SARS viruses are in all places, but why they have not attracted the attention from the people? In the environment the people are living, the SARS viruses are not rare and can be found everywhere, and SARS viruses are not new and the people have found and known them for a long time, but it was after the viruses had mutated and spread among the public that the people began to understand them, at least in China.
An American scientist has found that in SARS viruses are selenium-containing proteins, without which, livings can not exit, and this is also true to SARS viruses.
With these evidences and facts, I can make my deduction: since there are two kinds of viruses in the world that might mutate with a result of becoming infectant and more pathogenic, whether SARS viruses belong to this case? In addition, selenium proteins are also found in these viruses.
I just have answered two questions raised by you, one is why it can be said selenium is the only nutrient among numerous nutrients that has direct relation with viral infection, another is why it can be said selenium supplement can protest or prevent people from infected by SARS. Of course, it is another thing after having got SARS.
Before having been infected by SARS, you will face with two possibilities, one is that supplementing selenium, i.e. nano-selenium, will regulate your immune function, so that in our country selenium has already been approved as a kind of healthcare food for its immunity regulating function, which is out of question. The other is that supplementing selenium might protect you from getting SARS when SARS virus having entered your body. The former is indirect, whereas the later is direct.
Lingane: Half century ago, keshan disease had also overrun in our country for a time, and it was confirmed keshan disease is also caused by selenium deficiency. Since then, have we conducted any further research in this field?
Chen Yunshi: It can be said that the elaboration on the relationship between selenium and keshan disease was an important contribution of our scientists to the world science in general and the nutrient and selenium science in particular. Since then, we have conducted some researches on this problem through international co-operation. Up to now, our country has been always in the forefront of study on selenium, with two of the seven international conferences on selenium having been held in China.It can be said selenium is a trace element essential to the human body. What is ¡°essential¡±? ¡°Essential¡± means lack of selenium will directly lead to disease, the so-called keshan disease. The keshan disease is a local disease, which happens only in Heilongjiang, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in our country and might damage the cardiac muscle of human being. After supplement of selenium, the spread of the disease has be controlled in the whole region. This is the first evidence that has confirmed selenium is a trace element essential to human body.
Lingane: In what aspects is the relationship between selenium and the health of human body reflected?
Chen Yunshi: There are many things that reflect the relationship between selenium and the health of human body, because selenium is an important antioxidant. For example, if you have got a tumor and have to be treated with radiation or chemical therapy, selenium will be able to protect you from serious oxidizing damage. Although selenium can¡¯t directly cure the tumor, it can help the medicines and measures adopted in the radiation or chemical therapy get a good effect. In addition, selenium has a strong function, i.e. immunity regulating, which can regulate the lower immune function to a normal level, especially for the old men or those who have immune defects. These have been proved by a great number of studies.
Having the two functions, selenium is also effective to some other diseases, such as tumors, diabetes, cataract and hepatitis, etc. Taking Qidong County, Jiangsu Province, a high outbreak area of liver cancer in our country as an example, it is selenium that was used to prevent liver cancer at that time. Because the time was short, and the number of people was not large, it was only possible to get some signs that the occurrence rate of liver cancer had been reduced after taking selenium, but it could be confirmed that many patients with hepatitis B had their indices converted from positive to negative, and this was what we called two pairs and a half.
¡°Nano-selenium is the only one that can be used as health foods or medicine in the world.¡±
Abstract: In terms of chemistry, nano-selenium is a kind of reduced selenium, equivalent to a so-called zero valence selenium. The zero valence selenium, according to reason, has not any biological function, and when it enters the human body, it can¡¯t be absorbed or used and will be discharged as its original state. But in fact, the nano-selenium, in its zero valence state, can be not only absorbed and used, but also has a special function as that of original selenium and inorganic selenium, such as anti-oxidizing and immunity regulating. However, the most significant feature of nano-selenium is its low toxicity that makes it much more safe, and this is certainly very important for its popularization.
Besides, nano-selenium is the only trace element in the world whether as a health food or as a medicine.
Lingane: To find a selenium product of low toxicity and high efficiency is the focus to the studies of trace elements for many years. You have engaged in the research of selenium for 40 years and I have heard about the failure of an American research group who has studied 800-odd forms of selenium. Are there any selenium medicines of low toxicity and high efficacy as well as high biological utility? And whether the problem has been solved?
Chen Junshi: There is a variety of selenium, some of them have appeared as medicine, such as selenium containing medicines available in Germany. In China, there is sodium selenite, which, with selenium as its main ingredient, was ratified as a health food in the past and a medicine at present, and has been sold as a non-prescription medicine.
Of course, some products have appeared in the form of health foods. But for the professional researchers like us, whether they have appeared as health food, or nurture, or non-prescription medicine, they are all the same. Selenium has a variety of chemical forms including organic compounds and inorganic compounds. In China there is a kind of selenium, which is called nano-selenium and already has received a patent. In terms of chemistry, the nano-selenium is a kind of reduced selenium, equivalent to a so-called zero valence selenium. The zero valence selenium, according to reason, has not any biological function, and when it enters the human body, it can¡¯t be absorbed or used and will be discharged as its original state. But in fact, the nano-selenium, in its zero valence state, can be not only absorbed and used, but also has a special function as that of original selenium and inorganic selenium, such as anti-oxidizing and immunity regulating. However, the most significant feature of nano-selenium is its low toxicity that makes it much more safe, and this is certainly very important for its popularization.
I have said that selenium is a trace element essential to the human body. However, because its strong toxicity as publicly recognized, its usage, unlike calcium, or potassium, or vitamin B, is strictly limited whether as medicine or as nurture. Besides, the safety scope, i.e. the gap between the effective and toxic dosages of selenium intake is so narrow in comparison with vitamin B that it almost can¡¯t be taken. Vitamin B enjoys a large range between effective and toxic dosages, and it doesn¡¯t matter even if you have taken too much, while selenium has a narrow safety scope, and it is easy to have too much. Compared with other selenium compounds, nano-selenium is featured by low toxicity and a high safety coefficiency, and this is certainly very important in terms of its popularization, because enterprises, scientists and customers always pay great attention to the safety of health foods and medicines.
We expend money on health foods for the purpose of improving our health. If we have not improved our health, but were poisoned, how we should buy them. The advantage of nano-selenium is just expressed by its low toxicity. As a kind of health foods, nano-selenium has been evaluated by a group of specialists and approved by the Ministry of Public Health, indicating nano-selenium is safe to use.
In addition, this kind of nano-selenium is the only one in the world whether as a health food or as a medicine.
Lingane: Prof. Chen, I have heard that the evaluation on the toxicity and safety of nano-selenium was conducted in your research institute. Is this true?
Chen Junshi: Yes. It has already been reported. The toxicity of nano-selenium is much lower than that of sodium selenite.
What the people are most concerned about is not its acute toxicity, but what might happen after taking for a long time. Nano-selenium is not like an antibiotic, which no body wants to take for a long time, but a kind of health foods, nurture or non-prescription medicine, which should be taken for a long time even for tumor sufferers especially before and after radiation and chemical therapy.
At the end of 2003, we spent 3 months for toxicity experiment on rats. Because the life of rat only lasts more than two years, the three months, equivalent to 8-10 years for people, accounts for a great part of rats¡¯ or people¡¯ live if people can survive for 70-80 years.
What I have said means the period of three months is long enough for the experiment on rats, and don¡¯t have any doubt about three months later what might happen.
At that time, our experiment was conducted not only with nano-selenium, but also with sodium selenite (inorganic selenium) and selenium protein (organic selenium) for comparison. Selenium protein is a kind of selenium-containing protein, or a kind of soybean protein. When soybean is planted, the selenium concentration in the soil is much higher and the selenium is expressed in the form of organic selenium.
In fact, the scientific experiment was not a simple comparison between the special nano-selenium and organic selenium protein and inorganic sodium selenite. In this experiment, several rats were divided into ten-odd groups and fed together. We have to measure their weight, their liver function and after killing them, observe visually under microscopes whether there are any pathological changes in their livers, or cirrhosis or cell putrescence.
In short, we conducted a series of experiments including that of haemoglobin to observe the toxic reaction with a result that can be summarized as that the toxicity of nano-selenium is lower than that of the selenium containing in sodium selenite and selenium protein and its damage to the human body is much lower than them.
The evaluation we had to make finally was on the safety of the nano-selenium, and was about whether it would influence the body weight and whether is would damage the liver functions, and it should be said the safe dosage, or non-effective dosage or non-toxic function in our language, of nano-selenium is higher the other two.
With the same performance, if you have taken nano-selenium, it will be safer than others. This is very important for selenium products, even more important than its efficacy, especially for health foods, which should be taken for a year or two. Of course, whether it can be taken continuously for eight year to ten years is another problem. But experiment shows the nano-selenium is safe to use.
Extracted from ¡°Medicine World¡±, P12-14, No. 10, 2004