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Vitamin E, selenium, and immune function

Picking back up on the topic of trace minerals and immune function (review the blog about zinc here and copper here), I’d like to continue the discussion, but focusing on selenium and vitamin E.

First, a little legal copy. The FDA regualtes the amount of selenium that can be supplemented to beef cattle on a per head per day basis. While this level may or may not meet the animals’ needs, we are legally obligated to stay at or below 3 mg per head daily, in a self fed supplement, 0.3 ppm in the total diet. Why you wonder? Selenium is the most toxic of all the trace minerals and excesses are not readily excreted from the body. It can also pose a human health risk as selenium can be stored in muscle and milk.

It’s a safe bet that most producers are familiar with selenium’s influence on reproductive (retained placentas) and muscle (white muscle disease) health. However, what might surprise you is that selenium and vitmain E have very similar functions in the body. So much so that a deficiency of one can be offset by sufficent levels of the other. However, this synergy doesn’t mean that we should over supplement one and under supplement the other.

Like copper, selenium is a key component of an antioxidant enzyme (passive immunity, happens in the background). The enzyme is responsible for breaking down the by-products created during the process of killing pathogens. These by-products are toxic to the immune cells that kill the pathogens as well as other healthy cells. Without the enzyme, the ability of the killer immune cells to function properly is reduced.

Vitamin E has similar functions to seleium (antioxidant) and also functions in the formation of structural components of membranes. Vitamin E is not stored in the body in large concentrations and animal can become deficient when faced with multiple immune challenges. Determining a requirement for vitamin E is difficult due to interrelationships with 5 dietary factors, including selenium. It’s estimated to be between 4.5 to 27 IU per pound of dry matter intake.

CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements offer a wide range of products that include complete trace mineral packages to help support optimal immune function. The Breed-Up® product line includes an elevated trace mineral package (200% NRC recommendations), with chelated/organic trace minerals, to give your cows and calves an extra advantage. If supplemental protein is not needed, Crystal-Phos® and Phos-Lyx® both have elevated levels of trace minerals along with supplemental chelate/organic forms of trace minerals. Not sure what you need? Visit our website for more product information, contact your local CRYSTALYX® dealer, or give us a call 800-727-2502.