Selenium Toxicity at Issue in Nogales


According to a July 12 article published in the Sonoran newspaper “El Imparcial,” the Nogales Unit of Health Regulation and Control has issued an alert for consumers to avoid dietary supplements containing “Semillas de Brasil” (Brazil seeds) in Nogales. This is apparently not due to adulteration or other product quality issues, but because Brazil seeds and their derivative products in tablet, capsule and tonic forms can cause health risks to consumers. These products are generally sold as weight loss supplements in Nogales health food stores and pharmacies.

Quoted in the article, the head of the local regulatory agency, Cristina Chavez Fino, said that the product is touted as a “miracle drug” that can offer rapid weight loss, but it is possible that a consumer can have secondary side effects, from respiratory issues to organ failure.

Chavez Fino recommends that use of the Semilla Brazil products be suspended, and that consumers who seek to lose weight should eat healthy foods and consult with medical specialists – and follow their clinical opinion.

Many are not aware that the half-moon-shaped Brazil seeds (commonly referred to as Brazil nuts, although they are actually seeds) contain Selenium, which is substance that is beneficial in trace amounts, but in larger quantities can be toxic to the body.

Nutritional recommendations stress that consumers should only eat one, and not more than three, of the seeds in a 24-hour period. However, this is apparently not being sufficiently communicated to purchasers of the products through labeling or other means, which is often a key issue with the use of the natural supplements. And when a dieter is told that the seeds, or products derived from the seeds, can help to lose weight, he or she may be more likely to take more, not fewer, of the potentially dangerous products.

Symptoms of Selenium toxicity can be scary. They start as a metallic sensation in the mouth and breath that smells like garlic. Continuing symptoms include gastrointestinal problems like nausea and diarrhea, confusion and mental issues, tingling or prickling skin sensations and rashes, brittleness of hair and nails, and discolored and spotted teeth, and tooth loss. Read more.

Acute Selenium toxicity symptoms include respiratory distress, myocardial infarction (heart attack), tachycardia and other serious heart problems, neurological disorders and muscle pain. Serious stuff.

The action by the Unit of Health Regulation and Control is apparently not a prohibition or seizure, just a product warning. The Nogales Unit of Health Regulation and Control is a local entity that is part of the decentralized Mexican “Federal Sanitary System,” which is coordinated by the Mexico Federal Department of Health agency known as COFEPRIS and consists of a network of agencies at federal, state and local levels.