Methylselenocysteine

Selenium, an essential trace mineral, is critical for life in small amounts, but if the amount is too high, it becomes a toxic metal that our bodies don’t need and cannot handle; there is a fine line here. To solve this problem, there is a recommended daily intake, and there are certain foods that contain selenium. Selenium is needed to activate certain enzymes for daily functioning; as with many minerals important to life, selenium comes in different forms, some more toxic to the body than others. Methylselenocysteine is one that is non-toxic to the body and has been looked at for its anti-cancer properties; selenium has been studied for decades regarding its anti-cancer properties. More recent research has landed the limelight on methylselenocysteine and its cancer fighting qualities. This organic compound has functions of its own.

Background: Selenium

As mentioned above, selenium is needed to activate various enzymes in the body, without this activation, certain bodily processes would be lifeless. The enzymes that it activates are the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, a metabolic enzyme called thioredoxin reductase, and a thyroid-activating enzyme known as iodothyronine deiodinase. There are both inorganic and organic forms of selenium; the inorganic forms have not proven to have any level of toxicity so far. Organic selenium becomes toxic at levels of 3,500 micrograms; the recommended daily allowance is a mere 55 micrograms.

Methylselenocysteine
Methylselenocysteine is looked at the most when it comes to fighting cancer. This compound is very easily consumed through foods, and it does not build up to toxic levels in the body. It is a simple organic compound of selenium. It is found in plants, such as garlic, wild leeks, onions, and broccoli. Depending on how rich the soil is in selenium, some plants may have more selenium than others.

Anti-Cancer Research with Methylselenocysteine
Unlike other compounds of selenium, methylselenocysteine is easily excreted from the body, so it doesn’t build to toxic levels. The process of fighting cancer goes like this: once in the body, methylselenocysteine is easily converted into methylselenol by an enzyme called beta-lyase; it is in this form that the mineral does its battle with cancer cells (more on that in a minute. Once this duty is done, it is converted into another form to be gotten rid of by the body. From methylselenol, it is converted into dimethylselenide to be excreted through the breath, and anything left is converted into trimethylselenonium to be officially removed through the urine. This whole process is known as the methylated selenium pathway; it all happens very quickly so there isn’t enough time for it to build up in the body and become toxic.

How it fights cancer cells
Once methylselenocysteine is converted into methylselenol, a very strange process occurs. It actually kills cancer cells by making them commit suicide. This is something called apoptosis, and is triggered by some sort of stimulus, methylselenol being one of the qualified stimuli. The whole thing is controlled and orderly, but turns out great for the individual having problems with cancer. There is no mess left by the (now) dead cancer cells and it isn’t possible for them to spread once they have been programmed to be killed. But that’s not all methylselenocysteine does to fight cancer; it also (in the form of methylselenol) can inhibit angiogenesis of cancer tumors. Angiogenesis is a clinical definition for the creation of new blood vessels; cancer cells need an extra blood supply to grow as they do, and inhibiting the creation of these blood vessels prevents them from growing before they even start.

Trials with Methylselenocysteine
There haven’t been too many trials dealing with methylselenocysteine and the recommended amount to take, but as of now, research suggests that 200-400 micrograms per day is a safe amount of this compound.

Last updated on Dec 3rd, 2010 and filed under Health Supplements. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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