The history of boron can be traced to almost 4000 years in the past when ancient Babylonians used borax in the gold industry.
It is not surprising the fact that even Egyptians used boron for any purpose, such as mummification, metallurgy, and medicinal purposes.
Moreover, Turkey is nowadays one of the larger suppliers of boron worldwide, as it has delivered boron to boron acid manufacturers for many years.
Ever since 1923rd, evidence started showing that this mineral can be one of the essential minerals for normal body function. Boron in human organism interacts with calcium and vitamin D, magnesium affecting the strength of bones, has antioxidant properties, sexual hormones.
What Is Boron?
Boron is the fifth element is the Periodic Table, which possesses features of metals and non-metals (metalloid). As the boron atom has these characteristics, it can interact and bind with the many different substances causing various effects in our body.
Some of the major sources of boron are:
- forest fires
Elemental boron is the primary compound in these sources.
Application of boron fertilizers into the soil is also one of the common sources of boron released into the environment.
Some research implies that around 5.3 billion kilograms per year are realized in the atmosphere. So, taking this number, it is evident that boron is essential for our health and the environment.
Boron can be found mainly in the form of inorganic borates.
Boron is a trace element that plays a crucial importance in maintaining optimal physiology.
Evidence suggests that boron is one of the essential micronutrients. Because of that, dietary advice regarding optimal boron dietary intake and boron supplementation should be provided.
Considering this, boron has important roles in the chemical process of plants, animals, humans, and the evolution of life on Earth.
How Does It Work?
In the largest amount, boron is present in body tissues and fluids as boric acid. 98.4% of boron in our body is boric acid, while only 1.6% of boron is borate anion.
Total blood boron concentrations range from 15.3 to 79.5 ng/g. Various organs have various levels of boron. So, this suggests that boron has a specific role in each organ.
It is estimated that the total boron content in the human body ranges from 3 to 20 mg. The highest concentrations are found in:
Additionally, boron affects the cells in our body and changes their ability to communicate between themselves. Shortly, all our cells have receptors attached to the cell membrane. If something affects these receptors – our cell response will change also.
Boron acts in a few ways:
- Stabilizes ribose – the main sugar in our RNA (one-chain while DNA has 2 chains)
- Alter the metabolism substances included in growth and development – especially important in children
- Promotes skin and wound healing by interacting with calcium, vitamin D and magnesium (this is why boron supplementation is used in diet)
What Are The Benefits Of Boron?
Boron participates in chemical reactions, which plays a role in the synthesis and metabolisms of diverse reactions. Boron is an effective treatment option for arthritis and causes considerable improvement in the development of bones seen in 95% of cases.
It increases calcium integration into bones, joints, and cartilage.
In addition, it affects a few hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.
Boric acid shows promising results to suppress breast cancer cells.
Similarly, boron affects certain clotting factors, preventing some additional problems produced by congestive heart failure such as myocardial infarction.
Another beneficial effect of boron is that it decreases cholesterol levels and helps in removing cholesterol from the arterial wall. In that way, it reduces the chance of getting stroke and heart attack.
Also, boron changes the metabolism of several hormones:
All of these previously mentioned hormones regulate blood sugar levels.
Proteins and sugars which compromise our cells’ membrane can react with boron making complex compounds with boric acid. This leads to changes in the integrity of the cells’ membranes.
Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants effects of boron are also widely known. Because of these effects, borate and boron supplementation are used in:
- cancer treatment
- wound healing
- controlling of diseases
Boric acid, which is probably the most famous compound of boron increases the effects of the enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. This is especially important because this enzyme is inhibited by pesticides.
Moreover, as it has antioxidants effects, borate and boron compounds reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is one of the main reasons for disease occurrence and aging.
Effects On Prostate Cancer
Boron activity on cancer cells is based on the inhibition of the number of enzymes necessary for cell division, life, and end-stage of the cells’ cycle. Boron-rich diet showed a considerable reduction in the risk of prostate cancer.
There is a correlation between dietary boron and decreased frequency of prostate cancer. For example, one of the studies showed that men whose boron supplementation was more than 1.8 mg/day have 52% less chance to get prostate cancer.
Moreover, boric acid inhibits cancer cells and has the potential to decrease the size of tumors and serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is an enzyme secreted by normal and cancer cells. Boronic acid has the potential to suppress PSA activity. However, researchers need to conduct more studies to prove these effects.
Boron and Hormones
Boron is a necessary microelement in the synthesis of hormones, especially steroid hormones such as sex hormones.
- testosterone – increases low testosterone levels in men
- estrogen – increase estrogen levels in women, particularly menopausal women.
Heavyweight exercise in men longer than 2 months could lead to suppression of testosterone levels, particularly in non-professional body-builders.
However, boron supplementation regulates the level of sex hormones. Men given 10 mg/day of sodium tetraborate (a form of boron) for 4 weeks, could increase testosterone level.
In cases of erectile dysfunction where the cause is low testosterone, supplementation with sodium tetraborate could help. Although for a significant increase in blood hormone levels need a few weeks, libido should come back in a few days.
In the postmenopausal period normally estrogen levels decrease.
Boron increases the concentration of estrogen. Thus, boron supplementation can mitigate or even prevent some of the postmenopausal symptoms such as sweat and hot flushes. It helps to regulate the menstrual cycle.
Moreover, in the case of decreased libido in women, 3 mg/day of sodium for 7 weeks significantly might increase estrogen and testosterone in women and increase their libido.
Besides this, in postmenopausal women, osteoporosis is common due to decreased estrogen levels. Boron supplementation increases calcium absorption and, in that way, maintains bone health.
Boron and Bone Health
Dietary boron is beneficial in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Researchers conducted a study on postmenopausal women. Women first were on a low-boron diet for 17 weeks. After that period, they were given 3 mg/day of boron supplement for 7 weeks.
The results were fascinating!
Only after 8 days of starting boron supplementation, calcium excretion in urine decreased by 40%. Magnesium urinary excretion decreased by 30% compared to the period with low-boron intake.
Both calcium and magnesium losses were significantly lower after supplementation.
These results are significant as calcium and magnesium are minerals crucial minerals providing maximum bone health.
Similarly, dietary boron has an identical effect as estrogen supplementation.
Boron supplementation increases levels of calcium in the blood, decrease calcitonin level (a hormone in charge for calcium metabolism), and increase concentration and utilization of vitamin D. All these effects have to prevent and delay bone deterioration.
Because of that, boron has a significant role in osteogenesis (the process of making bones). Boron deficiency harms the development and regeneration of bones.
Boron and wound healing
There is strong evidence that boron makes wounds healing faster.
3% boric acid, is widely used in medicine.
3% boric acid solution applied in deep wounds reduces the time spent in intensive care by two thirds.
Boric acid acts on the extracellular matrix (the part outside cells, intercellular space). One of the cells in our skin are fibroblasts. Wound healing goes through a few phases:
- You cut yourself – wound occurs
- Immediately cells inside and around the wound get signaled that they are exposed
- Fibroblast cells secrete various enzymes which for the purpose has to fill the wound with new cells
- Secreted enzymes activate fibroblasts to produce collagen (note that these cells secrete enzymes that among others act on fibroblasts itself)
- Collagen needs a few days to weeks to fill the wound with new tissue (layers of skin), depending on type and place of the wound
As you can notice, fibroblasts are the key cells in the wound healing by secreting extracellular matrix and collagen. Boron act as a facilitator of these critical enzymes secreted by fibroblasts and, in that way, facilitate wound healing.
Boron and anti-inflammatory effect
Besides boron promote wound healing, it has an anti-inflammatory effect. It reduces the level of inflammatory biomarkers. When there is an inflammation in our body next biomarker can level up:
The causes of the inflammation can be:
- microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.
- autoimmune (the body attacks itself)
Boron supplementation during one week significantly decreased high CRP and TNF-α, by 20% and 50%, respectively.
As these inflammatory biomarkers have a role and increase the risk for many diseases such as diabetes, heart attack, unstable angina, stroke, cancers, etc. boron supplementation could have a role in reducing unwanted outcomes.
Effects on rheumatoid arthritis
As boron affects the synthesis of steroid hormones such as cortisol, which acts anti-inflammatory, it can alleviate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
In some parts of Australia, where water and soil are rich in boron, people/patients report about half less rheumatoid arthritic. Also, in countries where is a high concentration of boron, there are fewer reports of rheumatoid arthritis cases.
The intake amount of boron depends on diet.
- intakes about 3.25 mg of boron per 2000 kcal/day – high-boron diet
- intakes around 0.25mg of boron per 2000 kcal/day – this is a low-boron diet
A maximum daily dose at which there are usually no adverse effects:
- 20mg/day for an adult person and pregnant or breast-feeding women over 19 years
- The maximum daily dose for adolescents (14-18 years) is 17mg/day
Although boron toxicity is very uncommon, there are some cases. Toxicity of boric acid can only occur in cases if consumed in enormous amounts.
While 18-20 mg of boron has been described as fatal, deaths are still extremely rare. Moreover, some individuals can tolerate even more fatal doses from 80-297 mg.
It’s highly unlikely that a single ingestion of boron leads to death.
However, you should be aware that death might occur a few days after ingestion, usually from renal failure or shock. Still, the mechanism of how boron causes death is not clear.
Boron, boric acid, and boron oxide act primarily as irritants.
Symptoms of acute boron toxicity are similar to symptoms of pellagra, which cause:
Vomitus and feces might change color and present blue-green in case of a toxic ingestion. Moreover, renal failure, hypothermia, erythema, confusion, restlessness occurs in the later stage.
Poor appetite, nausea, and, consequently, weight loss, decreased libido, and sexual activity is characteristics of chronic toxicity.
In case you take hormonal therapy (contraceptive, etc.), it notes that boron can significantly increase estrogen and testosterone levels.
Because of that, always provide an extensive personal history of diseases and therapy to your medical professional! If a doctor and other medical professionals know about your medical treatment, they can predict undesirable outcomes, prevent it, or mitigate it.
Lack of boron results in:
- growth impairment
- abnormal bone development
- lack of steroid hormone levels
- increases in the excretion of urinary calcium
- changes in mineral status in the organism
Above all, boron is a trace microelement that plays a role in the metabolism of:
- glucose (blood sugar)
Boron deficiency has effects with a decrease in electrical bran activity, short-term memory, and a decrease in performing tasks. These effects occur due to changes in neuron transmission caused by the boron deprivation.
Boron supplementation is the treatment.
The main sources of boron are fruits and vegetables. Most fruits, seeds, barks are rich in boron.
However, citrus fruit, berries, and pineapple are not.
A diverse plant-food diet provides about 1.5-3 mg/day of boron. There are no recommendation levels for boron intake, only the upper intake level, 20 mg/day.
Leafy green has the highest amount of boron speaking of vegetables.
Also, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are much richer in boron than the grasses such as corn, rice, and wheat. For example, avocado, peanut, peanut butter has the highest concentration of boron.
Similarly, cider, wine, beer, and other plant-based beverages are boron rich as well.
Other significant sources of boron are drinking water and fertilizers. The concentration of boron in drinking water differ, and it depends on location, varying from negligible to high concentrations of boron.
Despite coffee and milk having low boron concentration, they provide 12% of the total boron intake in the United States. This is because people consume these products in a high amount on a daily level.
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To conclude, boron is a trace vital mineral that can be found naturally in soils, rocks, water, volcanos. In particular, part of the world can be found in high amount.
Boron is associated with many beneficial effects, such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer.
These characteristics make boron desirable mineral to be deeply research and finally, substitution implemented in daily practice.
Although many positive effects are known of boron, more studies need to be conducted to prove these effects in a large number of patients. This is especially important as at the moment since there is no recommendation daily boron intake.