Tag Archives: cancer prevention

Selenium Supplementation and The Paleo Diet | The Paleo Diet

Last month the International Journal of Cancer published a study conducted by researchers from Newcastle University, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The research team concluded that lower serum selenium levels are associated with increased risks for colorectal cancer and that people in Europe, on average, are at higher risk than those in North America.1 They estimate that Western Europeans average 80 mcg of selenium per liter of blood, compared to 110-170 for North Americans; they attribute this disparity to lower levels of selenium in European soils.

As colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in Europe (as well as in the US), this study has sparked interest in selenium supplementation. Newcastle University professor John Hesketh, one of the study’s researchers, commented, “We think this [study] provides a strong case for a Europe-wide study to investigate the impact of supplementing food with selenium.”2 Hesketh quickly points out, however, that too much selenium is toxic, which makes supplementation problematic. “The difficulty with selenium,” he explains, “is that it’s a very narrow window between levels that are sub-optimal and those that would be considered toxic.”3

So what exactly is selenium? Why is it so important? Are there strategies, short of supplementation, to ensure we’re getting optimal levels? Can the Paleo diet help? Selenium is an essential micronutrient that supports thyroid function and the immune system. The thyroid, in fact, contains more selenium per gram of tissue than any other organ.4 Selenium also acts as an antioxidant, working synergistically with vitamin E (which also acts as an antioxidant). Dr. Nicholas Ralston, one of the world’s leading selenium experts, explains that selenium also supports the formation of an elite family of enzymes. “These enzymes,” Ralston notes, “perform irreplaceable functions, including preventing and/or reversing oxidative damage, controlling essential events in cell signaling, maintaining metabolic pathway processes, controlling protein folding, and regulating thyroid hormone status.”5

Selenium Supplementation and The Paleo Diet | The Paleo Diet

As mentioned above, selenium is tricky because too much is actually counterproductive. According to the Institute of Medicine, the tolerable upper level for adults is 400 mcg/day.6 The FDA recommends 70 mcg/day, but some research suggests this amount is insufficient. Research conducted at the University of Buffalo’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute, for example, has established 200 mcg per day as the safest, most therapeutic amount for cancer prevention (specifically prostate, colon, and lung cancers).7

The great news is that with the Paleo diet, it’s relatively easy to consume 100 to 200 mcg/day of selenium. The best sources include mushrooms, eggs, seafood, poultry, seeds, and nuts. Brazil nuts are the most potent known source; a mere 10 grams (2 nuts) provides 192 mcg.

The chart above shows the selenium content of common Paleo foods. As you’ll see, there’s no need to spend extra cash on selenium supplements. For most people, a carefully planned Paleo diet provides plenty of selenium. And should you need a boost, 1 or 2 Brazil nuts daily can be thought of as superior quality, natural “supplements.”

Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.

Nutritional Grail

Christopher James Clark | The Paleo Diet TeamChristopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.


[1] Hughes, DJ, et al. (March 2015). Selenium status is associated with colorectal cancer risk in the European prospective investigation of cancer and nutrition cohort. International Journal of Cancer, 136(5). Retrieved from //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25042282

[2] Press release, University of Newcastle. (December 16, 2014). New findings in the link between selenium and cancer. Retrieved from //www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/new-findings-in-the-link-between-selenium-and-cancer

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dickson, RC, and Tomlinson, RH. (May 1967). Selenium in blood and human tissues. Clinica Chimica Acta, 16(2). Retrieved from //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4166400

[5] Ralston, N. (September 2011). Selenium’s Pivotal Roles in Relation to Mercury Exposure Risks. PROMOTING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES: Developing and Exploring Linkages Between Public Health Indicators, Exposure and Hazard Data. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from //www.epa.gov/ncer/events/calendar/2011/sep26/abstracts.html

[6] Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from Ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/selenium/

[7] Reid, ME, et al. (March 2008). The nutritional prevention of cancer: 400 mcg per day selenium treatment. Nutrition and Cancer, 60(2). Retrieved from //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18444146

Paleo and Breast Cancer Prevention: Is There a Link?

It’s no surprise that eating a diet rich in fresh vegetables, lean meats, wild fish and natural fats, and getting regular exercise is a healthier approach and will lend better odds to your longevity than what has, unfortunately, become the Standard American Approach.

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you might wonder if eating Paleo can prevent something as widespread as this disease.

Sometimes we need to read between the lines and set the word ‘Paleo’ aside for a moment. Return to the basics, precisely what “True Paleo” is all about.

So, rather than trying to find studies that prove “Paleo prevents breast cancer,” we can discover fact simply by referring to the natural foods that are the essence of the approach.

For example, Dr. Kristi Funk, a board-certified surgical breast specialist and founder of the Pink Lotus Breast Center discusses the ‘superfoods’ that may help prevent cancer as well as help patients while undergoing treatment in the Ultimate Breast Cancer Prevention Guide:

  1. Three cups of green tea a day can prevent breast cancer by as much as 50% because of its high EGCG antioxidant content. Squeeze a little lemon into your cup and increase the antioxidant power of your tea.
  1. Garlic is a good immunity booster that also has anti-inflammatory properties.
  1. Olive oil, borage oils and flaxseed oil contain monounsaturated fat, which can help suppress breast cancer.
  1. Turmeric helps decrease estrogen. As little as one teaspoon a day has been shown to reduce tumor growth. Get your daily dose by mixing it into salad dressings, rice or vegetable dishes.
  1. Cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, bok choy and Swiss chard bind estrogen in your GI tract and reduce tumor stimulation. They also detoxify the liver, which helps reduce the toxins flowing through your body that can irritate cells and turn them into early cancers.
  1. Seaweed/Kelp are high in iodine, this is another estrogen reducer.
  1. Vitamin D (2000 IU) Calcium-rich foods, such as sardines, salmon, milk and cheese are also highly recommended. Or, 15-20 minutes of sunshine every day can help every day can help you in getting your daily dose of Vitamin D, which can prevent tumor metastasis, reduce cancer cells and aid estrogen inhibitors.

In summary, Dr. Funk said, “All of these combined can decrease your breast cancer risk by up to 50%.”

Notice anything interesting about all the bullet points?

They’re all food. Real, fresh, unadulterated food that also happen to be Paleo-friendly.

We can also refer to The Paleo Diet, in which Dr. Cordain points out that grain and starch-based diets, which are the antithesis of a Paleo approach, may elevate the risk of breast cancer as they “elevate insulin, increases IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor one, a potent hormone in all tissues that regulates growth), lowers IGFBP-3 (insulin-like growth factor binding protein three) which causes the body to become less sensitive to one of its natural signals which limits growth.”1

Sadly, all those confusing messages in the media that ‘meat causes cancer’ or that we should ‘rely on a model such as the MyPlate template and be sure to include whole grains in our regular regime’ are just that – confusing messages that get easily taken out of context and may end up increasing your risk of becoming sick, despite the best of intentions.

So is Paleo the way to go?
I believe so.

Dr. Cordain sums it up best. “It’s almost certain that no single dietary element is responsible for all cancers, but with the low-glycemic Paleo Diet, high in lean protein and health promoting fruits and veggies, your risk of developing many types of cancers may be very much reduced.”2

It’s hard to imagine not being the healthiest you could potentially be when you’ve armed yourself with all the goodness of an eating plan based on those local, fresh, seasonal veggies, wild proteins and good fats, with a bit of those ‘superfoods’ thrown in for balance.

Collectively, they’ll all serve to create a strong immune system, balanced blood sugar levels, and a higher likelihood that you can remain cancer free.

I’ll leave you with a testimonial and let you make the call for yourself.

“Dear Paleo Diet Team,

I am a breast cancer survivor. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on May 25, 2001: T1, Node Negative, Her2 positive and nuclear grade 3. I had a lumpectomy, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. On March 26, 2004 my breast cancer returned to my L-1 disk in my spine. I had 6 months of weekly chemotherapy and radiation. By December 15, 2004 I was declared in remission.

Herceptin was part of the chemo protocol that I had received in 2004 and have been receiving it every three weeks since the beginning of January 2005. Tumor marker tests are also conducted every other month. Unfortunately, my tumor markers started rising and by the end of May tests the upward trend was disturbing.

I share this news with my pharmacist who is also a certified nutritionist on May 28th. He recommended that I immediately eliminate sugar and grains from my diet. I found your book, The Paleo Diet, and started to eliminate sugar, grains and dairy from my diet that day.

The results have been astonishing to say the least. On May 24, 2005 my CA 27 29 marker was 43 and as of October 24, 2005 is 24. My CA 15 3 marker was 28.6 on May 24, 2005 and is now 22.9. I am 100% convinced that it is a result of being a very compliant follower of the Paleo Diet. Cancer likes sugar. Sugar is not my friend and is an enemy to my health.

I am very thankful to a very astute and pharmacist/ certified nutritionist who is on top of the current diets and the effects on one’s health. We are what we eat. I do not miss any of the sweets that I craved so and love the fact that I have finally lost the 25 chemo/radiation weight that I could not lose no matter how much exercise or dieting I did since 2002. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and lean meats and fish are the mainstay of my current good health.

I continue to emphasize to my incredible team of physicians at Duke that the wonderful lower tumor marker results are a result of my new diet. Thank you for your book and I will continue to spread the message to my support group and other women I meet who have breast cancer. Mind, body and soul-keeping each healthy is essential to survive this terrible disease. The diet recommended to me on May 28, 2005 empowered me to continue doing everything possible to win this battle.




1. The Paleo Diet, by Dr. Loren Cordain (Wiley & Sons, 2002) pp 78-79

2. The Paleo Diet, by Dr. Loren Cordain (Wiley & Sons, 2002) p 80

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