Selenium Supplements Side Effects: Hair Loss and Bad Skin?

Do you, like our good friend Dale, take in selenium supplements with the hope that it will protect you from heart disease? Then a recent study which found that selenium supplements do not prevent the occurrence of cardio-vascular diseases will not be to your liking. Dale surely does not like it.

Reports Reuters Health:

In the review of 12 studies that included close to 20,000 people, there was no difference in the number of strokes and heart attacks, heart disease-related deaths or deaths from any cause among participants randomly assigned to take selenium or nothing.

And here’s what the researchers* wrote in their summary (via

In our review, providing selenium supplements to healthy adults did not prevent the occurrence of major cardiovascular disease. The increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes when taking selenium supplements, as suggested in some previous studies, could not definitely be ruled out in our review.

In summary, this review of the available evidence to date suggests that taking selenium supplements is neither beneficial nor harmful for cardiovascular disease, but it is probably unnecessary for those who are already well nourished and who take large amounts of selenium from natural foods.

So there. If your diet is selenium-rich there may be no need for you to spend additional money on selenium supplements.

Now, do these supplements have negative side effects that we should be aware of? The Reuters report mentioned above has an answer for your question. It states thus:

However, the studies did show a slightly higher risk of hair loss and skin reactions among people taking selenium.

Whaaa? That’s the part that made our friend Dale immediately move his selenium supplements from the medicine cabinet straight to the garbage can. Not that he is exhibiting any hair loss at this point but he loves him his hair so much (he’d insure it if he can like that supermodel who insured her legs) he’d go crazy if he loses them. That’s why our group of friends call him Rapunzel. Haha.

That higher doses of selenium can lead to hair loss (and which indicates selenium poisoning) is also mentioned by Medline Plus, a website maintained by the National Institutes of Health. Here’s its list of the side effects of taking in too much selenium as:

Higher doses are POSSIBLY UNSAFE. They can cause significant side effects including nausea, vomiting, nail changes, loss of energy, and irritability. Poisoning from long-term use is similar to arsenic poisoning, with symptoms including hair loss, white horizontal streaking on fingernails, nail inflammation, fatigue, irritability, nausea, vomiting, garlic breath odor, and a metallic taste.

Garlic breath? OMG. Thank heavens Dale threw out his selenium supplements before he started smelling “garlicky”. On a positive note, it might be able to repel the vampiric girl who’s been hovering around our friend. Haha.

More from Medline:

Selenium can also cause muscle tenderness, tremor, lightheadedness, facial flushing, blood clotting problems, liver and kidney problems, and other side effects.

There is concern that taking selenium for a long time might not be safe. Long-term consumption of selenium supplements appears to increase the chance of getting type 2 diabetes. It also seems to increase the risk of skin cancer recurrence. There is also some concern that having too much selenium in the body might increase the risk of overall death as well as death from cancer.

So there, now you know some of the negative side effects of having too much selenium in your system.

* Researchers for the study are Karen Rees, Louise Hartley, Camilla Day, Nadine Flowers, Aileen Clarke, and Saverio Stranges.