Plants need boron for proper health, but it's not known whether humans do. However, boron does seem to assist in the proper absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus from foods, and slows the loss of these minerals through urination. Very preliminary evidence suggests that boron supplements may be helpful for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis .
No dietary or nutritional requirement for boron has been established, and boron deficiency is not known to cause any disease. Good sources include leafy vegetables, raisins, prunes, nuts, non-citrus fruits, and grains. A typical American daily diet provides 1.5 to 3 mg of boron.
When used as a treatment for osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, boron is often recommended at a dosage of 3 mg per day, an amount similar to the average daily intake from food. However, food sources may be safer (see Safety Issues ).
Boron aids in the proper metabolism of vitamins and minerals involved with bone development, such as calcium , copper , magnesium , and vitamin D . 4,10,14-18 In addition, boron appears to affect estrogen and possibly testosterone as well, hormones that affect bone health. 4,10,19 On this basis, boron has been suggested for preventing or treating osteoporosis . However, there have been no clinical studies to evaluate the potential benefits of boron supplements for any bone-related conditions.
On the basis of similarly weak evidence, 2,6 boron is often added to supplements intended for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Boron has also been proposed as a sports supplement , based on its effects on hormones. 20 However, studies have, as yet, failed to find evidence that it helps increase muscle mass or enhances performance. 21,22
Finally, boron is sometimes recommended as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis , but there is no evidence to support this use.
In areas of the world where people eat relatively high amounts of boron—between 3 and 10 mg per day—the incidence of osteoarthritis is below 10%. 6 However, in regions where there is less boron in the diet—1 mg or less per day—the incidence of arthritis is much higher. In addition, the joints of people with osteoarthritis have been found to contain less boron than people without the condition. These observations have given rise to the hypothesis that boron supplements might be helpful for people who already have arthritis symptoms.
However, the only direct evidence that it works comes from one highly preliminary study reported in 1990. 7
In one small study, 13 postmenopausal women were first fed a diet that provided 0.25 mg of boron for 119 days; then they were fed the same diet with a boron supplement of 3 mg daily for 48 days. 9 The results revealed that boron supplementation reduced the amount of calcium lost in the urine. This suggests (but certainly doesn't prove) that boron can help prevent osteoporosis.
Since the therapeutic dosage of boron is about the same as the amount you can get from food, it is probably fairly safe. Unpleasant side effects, including nausea and vomiting, are only reported at about 50 times the highest recommended dose.
One potential concern with boron regards its effect on hormones. In at least two small studies, boron was found to increase the body's own estrogen levels, especially in women on estrogen-replacement therapy. 11,12 Because elevated estrogen increases the risk of breast and uterine cancer in women past menopause, this may be a matter of concern for those who wish to take supplemental boron. Further research is necessary to discover whether boron's apparent effect on estrogen is a real problem or not. At the present time, we would recommend getting your boron from fruits and vegetables: a large study found that high intake of boron from these sources did not affect breast cancer rates. 13
If you are taking:
16. Hunt CD, Herbel JL, Nielsen FH. Metabolic responses of postmenopausal women to supplemental dietary boron and aluminum during usual and low magnesium intake: boron, calcium, and magnesium absorption and retention and blood mineral concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr . 1997;65:803-813.
23. Hunt CD, Herbel JL, Nielsen FH. Metabolic responses of postmenopausal women to supplemental dietary boron and aluminum during usual and low magnesium intake: boron, calcium, and magnesium absorption and retention and blood mineral concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;65:803-813.
Last reviewed August 2013 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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