The simple mineral that could slash your risk of the latest lethal epidemic

Last month, I spent some time discussing the emergence of liver cancer as the latest lethal epidemic.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap: The death toll from this once-rare disease is on the rise, even as mortality rates from other more common forms of cancer have fallen. And as usual, the mainstream explanation du jour is completely missing the point.

I covered some of my own theories as to why liver cancer is rocketing into the spotlight now. Like the obvious smoking guns of diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, excessive sugar consumption, and overmedication, just to name a few. (All of which the National Cancer Institute seems to want to ignore, laying the lion’s share of the blame on hepatitis C infection instead.)

But a new study points to yet another potential culprit.

New research from a team of Berlin scientists recently appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Their goal was to investigate how selenium deficiency—a common problem in Europe, where soil concentrations of the mineral are depleted—affects cancer risk over time. With a specific focus on cancer of the liver, gallbladder, and bile duct.

Their study followed nearly 500,000 European subjects for 10 years, during which they compared blood samples from cancer patients with healthy controls to assess for differences in selenium status. And as it turns out, selenium deficiency poses a very serious threat to your liver.

In fact, data showed that subjects with the lowest selenium status faced a risk of liver cancer as much as 10 times higher than their selenium-sufficient counterparts.

Of course, selenium already has a sterling reputation as a cancer-fighter—especially against colorectal and prostate cancers. And recent research shows that having higher levels of the mineral may lower your risk of developing diabetes by nearly a quarter, too.

Filling up on selenium-rich foods—like beef, seafood, and Brazil nuts—is always a wise choice. But this new research—on top of all of the previous research on selenium’s other benefits—makes a daily supplement a no-brainer. I typically recommend 200 mcg per day.

Hughes DJ, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Aug;104(2):406-14.