What is Boron?
When it comes to minerals, we do not often pay much attention to boron. However, it is a trace mineral that is possibly undervalued when it comes to human health. You can find boron in the environment as well as in certain plant-based foods. Its various uses include improving skeletal structure and bone density, helping to treat arthritis and boosting muscle mass.
Indeed boron is most often associated with mass and strength. It is commonly used by bodybuilders and athletes to aid in the body’s recovery process, prevent aches and pain and its ability to boost testosterone levels. Boron does not only improve strength, it has also been linked to improved brain functions such as focus and learning. (1)
What are the Best Food Sources of Boron?
If you needed another good reason to eat more fresh produce, boron can be found naturally in a number of plant based foods including fruits, nuts, and beans. The vast majority of the body’s supply of boron comes through our diets but it is also found in smaller amounts in water.
The following foods are the best dietary sources of boron…..
- Beans including mung beans, lima beans and kidney beans
- Various berries
- Sweet potatoes and potatoes
- Nuts like pecan and walnuts
- Figs and prunes
- Apples, oranges and pears
- Red wine
The boron we get from these food sources is boric acid or B(OH)3 which can only be found in plants. The precise way in which boron works in the body is still unclear. Researchers think boron helps to stabilize the molecules within certain plants including plant sterols and polysacharides which are known to benefit the human body.
It is also possible that boron helps the body utilize other minerals such as calcium and magnesium by producing important digestive enzymes. Research into its uses are at an early stage but its impact on estrogen levels has been well studied. According to research, boron helps boost estrogen levels in men and women which is one of the reasons it is linked with bone health and other age related conditions like arthritis and cognitive decline.
Recommended Daily Allowance
The number of studies into the role boron plays are quite limited meaning the USDA have yet to establish a recommended daily intake of boron. However, they have established a maximum or ‘upper limit’ based on the amount that people consume with no ill effects.
These are the upper limits for boron consumption….
- 1-3 years of age : 3 milligrams a day
- 4-8 : 6 milligrams a day
- 9-13 : 11 milligrams
- 14-18 : 17 milligrams
- 19-50 : 17 to 20 milligrams
- Pregnant women : 17 to 20 milligrams
- Nursing mothers : 10 to 25 milligrams
Boron Health Benefits
1) Bone Strength
Boron is mostly associated with bone strength and muscle mass because it helps improve the use of calcium in the body. It also helps protect against bone weakness and conditions like osteoporosis because it regulates the function of estrogen in both women and men. Studies also indicate that boron aids the bones and other bodily functions by helping it use its vitamin D supplies more effectively.
In one Chinese study, researchers found that supplementing with boron led to an increase in bone formation while it also prevented bone resorption. This protected the animals used in the study against osteoporosis. Rats given boron supplements exhibited improvements in bone thickness, volume and mass as well as increased levels of a hormone linked to bone health called estradiol. (2)
2) Muscle Mass
High levels of boron in the body help us to utilize certain other important nutrients more effectively including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. This is important in order to build muscle mass, burn fat reserves, prevent pain and muscle recovery following injury. Boron also helps promote the production of testosterone which has various muscle benefits.
Boron supplements are popular among athletes not only for their muscle benefits but because boron might also help to boost performance, improve reaction time and may even benefit hand to eye coordination.
As we have already mentioned, boron helps calcium integrate into the body’s bones and joints more effectively. This can help prevent deterioration and weakening of the joints and help to ease the pain from arthritis.
Research has demonstrated that people with less boron on their system are more prone to arthritis. Studies have also shown that boron supplements can have a significant impact on the integrity of bones with patients using supplements having harder bones than those who don’t take supplements. (3)
Epidemiological studies in locations where boron consumption is especially low have revealed that arthritis is much more common than in areas where boron consumption is higher.
4) Brain Health
Low boron levels can have a detrimental effect on a number of brain functions. This includes trouble focusing and retaining information as well as slower cognition. Boron helps boost a number of these cognitive functions including motor control, memory and focus.
Research has been done to compare the brain activity in people with a high boron intake to a low intake. They found that those with a higher boron intake improved a number of cognitive functions including task performance, motor ability, dexterity, coordination, perception, memory and attention. (4)
5) Hormonal Balance
Boron can help to balance the sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen in both women and their male counterparts. This can have a positive impact on menopausal symptoms and PMS in women. It may also help increase fertility. Studies done on animals have found that low levels of boron might be linked to infertility and to birth defects. This suggests that boron is very important for reproduction and fetal development. (5)
In one study published back in the 1990s, menopausal women given a diet low in boron were then given a diet much higher in the mineral. The participants experienced higher healthy levels of testosterone and estrogen as well as lower loss of magnesium and calcium through urination. (6)
6) Yeast Infections
Boron is actually one of the active ingredients in medicine prescribed for female yeast infections or candidiasis. Boron can be used as a more natural alternative to commercial yeast medications and cream. The topical application of boric acid is generally regarded as an effective and safe remedy for vaginal yeast infections.
One study compared the effects of a popular yeast infection treatment with boron. They found that boron was more effective than the commercial cream. In the study, over 90% of the women treated with boron recovered after 10 days of treatment compared with just 64% who used the commercial yeast cream treatment. The researchers also found that boric acid was safe and produced no adverse side effects. (7)
In research done with animals, scientists have found that low boron levels can increase many of the effects related to diabetes. These effects include variations in blood glucose levels and changes in triglycerides. Boron seems to help carbohydrates metabolize better and also regulate insulin production helping to control blood glucose levels. Because of this, boron may have a role to play in the health of people with diabetes.
8) Skin Infections
Boron can also be applied topically to the skin. Studies suggest that boric acid is a safe topical treatment and that it has astringent properties that may help relieve inflammation and redness as well as preventing infection. Boron is also sometimes used as an antibacterial eye wash to prevent eye infections or styes.