Boron


Boron has been making nutritional medicine news very recently, and will likely be noted as the next essential trace mineral. It appears to help maintain calcium balance, keeping bones healthy and preventing osteoporosis. The most recent research has been government sponsored, and it looks favorable in regard to the positive effects from adequate boron nutriture. The level of boron needed in the diet is not known; it is probably between 3 and 5 mg. daily. The highest concentration of boron in the body is in the parathyroid glands, suggesting its tie to calcium metabolism and bone health.


Boric acid has been used for decades as an astringent and antiseptic for the skin and eyes. Boric acid eye wash is probably boron’s most common medicinal use. However, boric acid use is not suggested for infants and small children, as many are sensitive. Excess use in anyone can lead to dry skin or gastrointestinal upset.


Sources: Boron is available in the soil and in many whole foods. Fruits, such as apples, pears, and grapes are high in boron. Leafy greens, legumes, and nuts also are good sources. A poor diet, high in refined foods and low in wholesome ones, will likely provide insufficient boron and may lead to deficiency problems, one of which may be osteoporosis in the elderly.


Functions: Boron physiology is not totally clear as yet. It possibly affects calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus balance and the mineral movement and makeup of the bones by regulating the hormones, mainly parathyroid, that control these functions. Boron’s aid in preventing bone loss and osteoporosis is only projected at this date, and further study is needed to understand its relationship to the bones.


Boron may also play a role in hypertension and arthritis via its relationship to calcium metabolism. Both of these diseases, as well as atherosclerosis, are in part related to abnormal calcium metabolism and balance. Adequate calcium (and magnesium) may help maintain normal blood pressure, while abnormal calcium deposition may increase artery plaque and joint irritation. More research in these areas may prove very interesting.


Uses: The current suggestion is to provide adequate levels of boron (3-5 mg.) in the diet to maintain healthy bones. Boron is now used in more calcium/bone replenishing nutritional formulae. At this time, due to its low potential toxicity and possible necessity, elderly people and anyone at risk of osteoporosis should eat boron-rich foods and further supplement boron at a level of about 1-3 mg. daily. Whether boron is useful in the treatment of osteoporosis, arthritis, other bone diseases, or hypertension will need to
be studied further.


Deficiency and Toxitity: Boron toxicity to date is associated with the excessive use or increased sensitivity to boric acid, as discussed earlier. The ingestion of boric acid can lead to immediate nausea and vomiting. Later problems could be anemia, hair loss, skin eruption, and seizures. Diborane inhalation or exposure to liquid boron hydride can adversely affect the lungs and nervous system.


Boron deficiency is apparently more of an everyday concern. It may be associated with an increased incidence of osteoporosis. Preliminary research of arthritis incidence suggests a correlation with soil boron levels. In Israel, where people have a very low rate of arthritis (less than 1 percent), there are high levels of boron in the soil, while Jamaica has the opposite situation; that is low boron soil levels and a high incidence of arthritis. Clearly, more epidemiological research is needed to isolate boron or boron deficiency as a factor in these diseases.


Requirements: There is no RDA for boron at this time. Probably about 1 mg. daily in the diet is sufficient to prevent deficiency. A healthy diet of wholesome foods probably provides 3 mg. or more daily. Drs. Neilson and Hung of the Department of Agriculture’s Grand Forks, North Dakota, Human Nutrition Research say that 3-5 mg. of boron daily can improve calcium retention, based on a six-month study of postmenopausal women. After a low boron diet, 3 mg. daily were supplemented. These boron-supplemented subjects then showed lower daily losses, nearly 50 percent, for both calcium and magnesium than when on the boron deficient diet.


Currently, more multivitamin/minerals and bone supportive supplements are adding 1-2 mg. boron. It appears that this mineral will be part of our nutritional picture for the future.

Elson M. Haas MD Written by Elson M. Haas MD

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