IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
WHAT IS BORON?
Boron with the chemical symbol ‘B’ is a micro mineral and has the atomic number 5 on the periodic table of elements. It is never found as a free element in nature. It is always attached to oxygen as boric acid or formed as a salt called a borate. Boron is an essential plant nutrient and is known to be essential for good health in rats. In humans, however, it is poorly understood.
Boron is found in all plants but the amount is dependent on the type of the soil. The amounts vary from 10 mg per kg to over 200 mg per kg particularly in shale and volcanic soil. The soil in certain areas of the world, areas such as Australia, Arizona and the Red Sea, is very rich in boron.
Studies on humans show that boron interacts with copper, estrogen, magnesium and vitamin D to assist in the metabolizing of calcium making calcium more accessible for bone mineralization.
WHAT DOES BORON DO FOR US?
Although the evidence for boron’s positive effects on our bodies is not thoroughly researched the following is an outline of what has been discovered so far. For a really solid overview of the findings on boron Health Canada has produced a document which you might find highly informative if you want to further explore the benefits of boron. The link is provided in the references at the bottom of this page.
1. Bones: Boron assists in the metabolising of calcium. Although research on boron is still very sparse studies done by Nielsen et al. 1992 showed a high correlation between adequate boron intake and calcium blood serum levels. Low levels of boron increased the excretion of calcium through the kidneys. Adequate levels showed less excretion meaning that the calcium was being held in the body therefore the bones were getting more available calcium for mineralization.
Along with the increase in calcium there was found to be an increase in vitamin D levels (Zitterman 2003) and as we have seen in the post on vitamin D it plays a major role in transporting calcium to the bones.
2. Osteoarthritis: Studies done on people with osteoarthritis found that with as little as 6 mg of supplemental boron per day there was a significant reduction in pain and join stiffness over an eight week period. (Newnham 1991 and 1994). It is generally recommended, however, that we not take more than from 1 to 3 mg per day.
3. Menopause: Boron has been shown to mimic certain estrogen effects. Although it does not have a strong correlation in the reduction of hot flashes it may play a part as estrogen does in strengthening bones through estrogen receptors involved in bone density. (Nielsen and Penland 1999)
4. Prostate Protection: Boron may have a protective role in protecting the prostate against cancer. Boron supplementation reduces prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels thus reducing tumor size. It also has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of some prostate cancer cell lines.
5. Cognitive Performance: Boron affects brain electrophysiology. In humans boron deficient diets show poor results in tests done on eye-hand coordination, attention and on short-term memory. If you are having these problems but are getting an adequate amount of boron in your diet taking more boron won’t help you. You should seek your doctor’s help in determining the source of your problems.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH BORON?
1. Calcium is not metabolized efficiently affecting our bones adversely.
2. Prostate cancer may be more apt to occur
3. Brain function is not as efficient.
4. Osteoarthritis is somehow more apt to occur.
There is a disease associated with boron deficiency known as Kashin-Beck disease, a disease of the bone. Germanium and molybdenum are two other minerals that are associated with this disease. Although unknown in most parts of the world in certain regions of China and in the mountainous regions (far from the sea) of the former Soviet Union it is known to occur. The soils in these areas of the world are known to be boron deficient.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH BORON?
Although elemental Boron is non-toxic for humans in small doses symptoms of acute toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, skin rashes, depression , ataxia and convulsions. Death can result in about five days because of circulatory failure.
Acute toxicity occurs depending on the body weight of the person, more than 2 to 3 grams per kg of body weight in infants to 15 to 20 grams per kg of body weight in adults. So if you are 80 kg (176 lb.) then ingesting 1200 grams of boron could be fatal. Note though that far less has caused death in some individuals. It is advised that 4 grams per day is the absolute upper limit. 3 milligrams or less is the recommended limit for supplemental boron on a daily basis for an adult.
The normal intake through diet depends on the amount of boron in the ingested foods and varies throughout different areas of the world. They range from less than 1 mg per day in some areas to more than 20 mg in others. Extremely high levels are needed to produce toxicity.
WHERE DO WE GET BORON?
There are varying forms of boron. Boron is never a free agent in nature. Some forms are highly toxic and can be fatal. Always be careful to check with your doctor and make sure you are taking an approved form and do not exceed the recommended daily amount.