April 30, 2001 (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Missing nutritional elements from your diet could cause a case of the flu to wreak more damage.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found an insufficient amount of the mineral selenium can increase the damage caused by the flu virus. Selenium is an essential trace element that is involved in antioxidant protection and thyroid hormone metabolism. In lab studies, researchers fed mice either a normal diet or a diet with inadequate amounts of selenium. The mice were then exposed to a strain of the human influenza virus.

Researchers found the mice that consumed the diet with inadequate amounts of selenium developed substantially more harmful lung inflammation than those mice that were fed a normal diet. The inflammation also lasted significantly longer in selenium-deficient mice than in their selenium-fed counterparts. Melinda Beck, M.D., from the UNC-CH, says, “What that suggests is that the deficiency in selenium altered their immune response, and so they got sicker than they would normally.” She adds, “It’s been known for a long time that if you’re malnourished, you’re more susceptible to infectious diseases.”

The most important sources for selenium are meats, fish and grains. The results of the study are published in the most recent issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Copyright – 2001 Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc.