Shaun Ward MSc ANutr
Boron is a chemical element with symbol B and atomic number 5.
It is produced by a naturally occurring nuclear reaction (cosmic ray spallation) and is a low-abundance element in the solar system and in the Earth's crust.
Boron is also a natural component of the human diet, with people’s daily intake depending almost entirely on the boron concentrations in their local soil.
A typical diet is estimated to provide ~1.5-3mg of boron a day. The main foods which contribute to boron intake are fruits, leafy vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
Boron’s impact on health are mainly in regards to:
- Bone development and regeneration
- Wound healing
- Production and metabolism of hormones and vitamin D
- Absorption of calcium and magnesium
In addition, boron has also shown to have anti-inflammatory effects that are associated with preventing or treating arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases, and many cancers.
The Benefits of Boron
Below we've listed every potential benefit we've found with credible scientific backing:
May Improve Bone Health
It has been reported that women have ~45% less urinary calcium excretion when they supplement with boron .
Boron also has important roles in osteogenesis (bone formation), and its deficiency may negatively impact bone development and regeneration . Researchers have proposed that boron induces the mineralization of osteoblasts by regulating the gene expression and the actions of key hormones such as 17β-estradiol, testosterone, and vitamin D .
Other experts have also found that boron regulates key bone morphogenetic proteins and growth factors that are needed for the formation of new cartilage and bone . In particular, boron regulates the activity of BMP-2, BMP-4, BMP-6, and BMP-7, which are all necessary to induce osteoblastic differentiation in human stem cells .
Studies have also indicated that boron is needed for the utilization of vitamin D, as animals with poor vitamin D status have improved their bone growth with boron supplementation .
May Improve Wound Healing
Boron has historically been used as a substance to aid wound healing.
Some research supports its use, with the application of a 3% boric acid solution to deep wounds effectively reducing the time required in intensive care by ~65% .
In lab studies, boric acid solutions can act upon human fibroblasts and heals them via direct action on their extracellular matrix . Specifically, it acts on specific enzymes found in the fibroblasts themselves, such as elastase, trypsin-like enzymes, collagenase, and alkaline phosphatase .
At this point the research is however extremely limited, and boron cannot yet be regarded as a solution for wound healing.
May Improve Joint Health (Arthritis)
It was discovered that in areas where boron intake is ~1mg per day, the incidence of arthritis ranges from 20%-70%, however in areas where boron intake is between 3-10 mg per day, incidence of arthritis is under 10% .
Interestingly, arthritis patients also have a lower concentration of boron concentration in their bones and synovial fluid compared to healthy individuals .
Analysis of animal studies reveals that boron downregulates the production and activity of enzymes involved in the inflammatory response within joints . 10mg per day of boron supplementation has shown to reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory molecules in the blood by ~20-50% .
Boron supplementation has even shown to reduce pain in people suffering with arthritis by ~60% after just 1 month, and ~70% after 2 months, with significant improvements in joint mobility. This benefit has allowed many patients to reduce or eliminate their use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug medications .
It is hypothesized that boron’s anti-inflammatory effects are because it can boost free-radical scavenging capabilities, mainly by raising levels of certain antioxidant enzymes in the blood and cells; superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase .
May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
An increasing number of papers have indicated that boron possesses anticarcinogenic properties. This mainly stems from the correlation between areas with diets high in boron and their low risk of several types of cancer, including prostate, breast, cervical, and lung cancers .
In animal studies, boric acid inhibits the proliferation of human prostate cancer cells proliferation and decreases the size of prostate tumors .
When studied in the lab, boron has shown mechanistic effects too, interfering with the reproduction of cancer cells through the inhibition of serine proteases and NAD-dehydrogenases, as well as initiating apoptosis .
Boron has also been shown to greatly inhibit hypoxia-inducible factor, which are transcriptional factors that are the stimuli for the expression of angiogenesis factors (the formation of new blood vessels). Inhibition of angiogenesis is known to prevent the growth of tumors and represents a potential cancer prevention strategy .
No human research has been conducted and therefore boron’s effect on cancer in humans is unknown.
How To Take Boron?
There is no recommended daily intake for boron since it is not considered an essential nutrient.
Based on the studies so far, an effective and safe range is between 3-10mg of boron per day for adults.
Boron Safety And Side Effects
Boron is likely safe for adults and children when used in doses less than the upper tolerable limit, which is ~20mg per day and above.
It is advised not to consume near this amount, especially if taken orally, as high doses may cause some degree of poisoning and lead to:
- Inflammation of the skin
- Muscle weakness
- Birth Defects
Extremely high doses of boron, 5-20 grams a day, have even been reported to cause acute death in humans .
Boron is a chemical element that is a natural part of the diet.
Boron supplementation may improve bone and joint health, wound healing, and could protect against cancer.
Boron is a safe supplement, however it is advised to stay well below 20mg per day to ensure safety.
3-10mg per day is a sensible and effective dosage that should not lead to side effects.