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Boron (which is also known in the supplement field under the English name Boron) has the chemical abbreviation B, has the atomic number 5 in the periodic table of the elements and is chemically considered a non-metal, but with some metallic properties. It is the hardest of all elements after carbon. Boron is used in the production of plant killers, lubricants and insulating materials, such as glass wool. It also plays a role in reinforcing plastics and light metals, e.g. in aircraft construction and aerospace.
Boron was discovered in 1808 by the two French chemists Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis Jacques Thénard and the Englishman Sir Humphrey Davy. In the earth's crust it ranks 37th in the frequency of occurrence of the elements. It is found mainly as boric acid and its salts, such as borax (sodium tetraborate); it does not occur as an element. In the gemstone tourmaline it occurs as borosilicate. The melting point of pure boron is 2180° C. It is essential for plants and animals. The fact that boron is also important for human nutrition was only discovered in the 80s of the 20th century.
Functions in the body
There are a number of vital functions for boron in plants and animals. Whether this also applies to humans has not yet been definitively proven. Many nutrition experts do not consider boron an essential nutrient (even though boron is essential for growth and positively affects health) because boron does not have a "defined biochemical function." However, recent research has found that boron is important for immune function, bone health, brain health and hormone production. However, there is no officially recommended daily intake (1, 2, 3).
Boron compounds appear to be suppliers of hydroxyl groups (chemically -OH) and in this function could support the production of a number of hormones, especially the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Boron compounds also appear to inhibit protein degradation, that is, to stabilize proteins in the cell plasma. This function can also explain the positive effect of taking boron in the case of osteoporosis, because the breakdown of proteins in the bones, of which the cell skeleton is made up, can probably be slowed down. Boron probably also plays a role in the immune system, possibly because it promotes the stability or formation of antibodies.
Food sources for boron
Boron is found in milk, dairy products, drinking water, fruits, nuts and vegetables. Dietary boron intake varies depending on where you live. In Europe, daily boron intake can be as low as 0.8 mg per day, while in the U.S. it can be as high as 7 mg per day (3). Many foods contain sufficient amounts of boron to make a difference in terms of health. Raisins, hazelnuts, and dried apricots have some of the highest densities of boron per weight.
Foods rich in boron include (3, 4):
- Soy 2.8 mg / 100g
- Plums 2.7 mg/ 100g
- Raisins 2.4 - 2.8 mg/ 100g
- Peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, each 1.6 - 2.4 mg/ 100g
- Dates 1 mg/ 100g
- Red wine (0.1 liter) 0.85 mg/ 100g
- Oysters 100 - 400 mg/ 100g
Many other fruits and vegetables contain smaller amounts of boron. If one consumes adequate amounts of these foods, then one may not need boron supplements. (4).
Metabolic functions and potential health benefits of boron.
Scientists are studying the role of boron as an ultratrace element and how it may contribute to human health. Scientific research suggests that boron may be important for the following functions. However, this does not mean that one must necessarily supplement boron. Instead, one should work with one's physician or nutritionist to find out if one's diet is too low in boron and if dietary changes are recommended.
Boron is important for bone health
Boron prevents the breakdown of vitamin D and thus increases the amount of vitamin D available in the body. Since vitamin D is essential for bone health, boron is also important for maintaining strong bones (3). One study found that the bones of people who took boron supplements were much more resilient than the bones of people who did not supplement boron. Boron supplements also increased the mineral density of the bones of female athletes (5, 6). In postmenopausal women, boron supplements reduced calcium loss and reduced the rate of osteoporosis (3, 7, 8).
Boron could support wound healing
Boron appears to be important for wound healing. It may be involved in the production of fibrous proteins such as collagen and other compounds that help repair damage to skin, bone and other tissue types (3). A gel containing boron is currently being studied for use in the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. In studies, the gel killed microbes such as yeast and other fungi and accelerated the process of wound repair and tissue growth in the laboratory setting (9). Boron also induces the growth of bacteria-killing white blood cells called phagocytes. These cells help fight infections and kill pathogens (10). Faster and better wound healing was observed in animals fed a diet rich in boron (2).
Boron could have effects on the body's sex hormones
Testosterone and estrogen are considered the two most important sex hormones. They are often referred to as male and female sex hormones, even though both have many functions in both men and women (11, 12). Boron could affect the amount and effect of both testosterone and estrogen in the human body. It could also have an effect, albeit weaker, on a third hormone called FSH.
Testosterone, the "male sex hormone" has a seemingly endless list of functions. It determines the sex of the child in the womb. It leads to the onset of puberty in boys. It is a steroid that builds muscle. It coordinates sex drive. It improves memory and cognition - and more (11). Low testosterone levels are much more severe in men than in women, which may be due in large part to the fact that men have higher testosterone levels to begin with. Low testosterone levels can cause weakness, fatigue, depression, sexual dysfunction, reduced muscle mass, anemia, bone disease, facial and body hair loss, and insomnia (11).
After one week of daily boron supplementation, 8 healthy men showed significantly higher testosterone levels in their blood. According to the authors of the study, boron could deactivate a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHGB), the level of which was significantly reduced in these men after only six hours after the first boron intake (3, 13). Boron supplements also significantly increased testosterone levels in postmenopausal women. This effect was most dramatic when the women's diets were low in magnesium. Testosterone is sometimes used to treat sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women, but only if these women also have sufficiently high estrogen levels (3, 14, 15).
Estrogen, the "female sex hormone," is vital for both men and women, although estrogen levels are much higher in women. Estrogen initiates puberty in girls and determines sexual behavior in women. In men, estrogen is important for sexual development and healthy sperm (16, 17, 18). Estrogen also maintains brain function, controls appetite, and supports thyroid, bone, and skin health (19, 20, 21, 22). Abnormally high or low estrogen levels can cause health problems. High estrogen levels can increase the risk of cancer and stroke, while low estrogen levels-especially in women-can cause memory problems, an irregular menstrual cycle, bone disease, and depression (23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29).
After menopause, estrogen levels drop dramatically. As a result, women are vulnerable to many of the risks mentioned above during this phase of their lives (30). Boron may or may not interact with and increase estrogen levels. One study of postmenopausal women showed a significant increase in blood estrogen levels after supplementation with boron, while another study observed reduced estrogen levels after boron supplementation (14, 31). Rather than having direct effects on estrogen and its levels, boron could increase the body's sensitivity to estrogen. It could bind to a type of estrogen receptor called estrogen receptor beta or ER-β and enhance its activity. ER-β is important for uterine, immune, digestive, lung, and prostate health, and could help the body fight cancer. (3, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36).
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
Follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, is important for sexual development and function because it triggers the growth of eggs and sperm (37, 38). Both low and high FSH levels can cause health problems. Diseases and conditions associated with low FSH levels include polycystic ovary syndrome, hypopituitarism, and hyperprolactinemia (39, 40, 41). Limited evidence suggests that boron may increase FSH levels. However, this has only been studied in rats exposed to toxic levels of boron. The rats also lost sexual organ function and developed reduced fertility (42).
Boron is important for the health of the brain
In the case of boron deficiency, the activity of the brain decreases in both animals and humans. In one study, people with extremely low boron levels had shorter attention spans and poorer short-term memory. They performed worse on tests of dexterity and coordination (3). These changes in brain activity are similar to those caused by malnutrition and heavy metal poisoning (3). Boron is undoubtedly important for brain health, which is why some scientists recommend boron supplementation in case of deficiency (2).
Boron could help with arthritis
Estimated arthritis rates correlate negatively with the amount of dietary boron intake. In areas of the world where daily boron intake is 1 mg or less, arthritis rates range from 20 to 70%. In areas of the world where daily intakes range from 3 to 10 mg, arthritis rates range from 0 to 10% (5). People who suffer from arthritis also have lower concentrations of boron in their joints than people without arthritis (5). In a study of 20 arthritis patients, half of the subjects reported improvement in symptoms after boron supplementation of 6 mg per day. Of the placebo group members, only 10% reported improvement (5).
Boron could help with kidney stones
Kidney stones are crystallized solids that form in the kidneys. When these become too large, they can cause severe pain, vomiting, and blood in the urine. In combination with antioxidants, hydration, and diet, boron could help flush out kidney stones (43, 44, 45). In a small human study, 10 mg of boron per day increased the rate of kidney stone excretion. Those taking boron also felt less pain when the kidney stones were excreted (46).
So far, there are no binding data for the recommended daily requirement of boron, but it is estimated to be 1 - 7 mg per day for adults.
Commercially available boron supplements are usually in the form of capsules or drops that provide 2 to 6 grams of boron per serving, with 3 mg being the most common dosage. To be on the safe side, adults should never take more than 20 mg of boron orally per day (3).
Demand in sport
The supply of boron should allegedly increase the body's testosterone levels by up to 300%. Unfortunately, this would be too good to be true!!! Evidence shows an increase in testosterone and estrogen levels only in menopausal women. Supplementation of up to 5mg a day has been shown to absolutely do the trick. If this is in a multivitamin/mineral preparation one can take this calmly, otherwise a boron preparation is alone as a food supplement without meaning.
Consequences of a boron deficiency
Deficiencies in any major nutrient will cause health problems, and these problems can help us better understand the normal function of a nutrient. Because there is no official recommended daily intake for boron, it is difficult to identify symptoms of boron deficiency or to attribute boron deficiency. According to some scientists, boron deficiency could cause problems in bone development, growth and healing. When people do not have enough boron, their bone cells cannot properly create new bone tissue, which could lead to diseases of the bones such as osteoporosis and rickets (3). Many of the symptoms of boron deficiency are similar to those of vitamin D deficiency. This overlap suggests that boron may interact with the skeletal system through vitamin D metabolism (3).
Safety and side effects
Supplemented boron, in the recommended amounts, is probably safe even for sensitive groups of people such as children and pregnant women. Supplements usually contain boron that comes from natural sources. Some of these forms include calcium fructoborate, calcium borogluconate, boron citrate, or boron complexes. Boron is often combined with salts such as calcium to provide synergistic benefits for bone health. In humans, boron poisoning rarely occurs because boron is readily excreted from the body (47, 48).
Precautions and warnings
Boron is probably safe for adults and children when used in dosages below the upper tolerable limit. There is concern that dosages above 20 mg per day may impair fertility in men. Boric acid, a widely used form of boron, is probably safe when used vaginally for up to 6 months. However, boric acid may cause a burning sensation in the vagina. Because boric acid is toxic if swallowed, boric acid should never be taken orally! The upper tolerable limit, the maximum dosage at which no harmful effects are expected, is 20 mg per day for adults and pregnant or lactating women. In adolescents between 14 and 18 years of age, this amount is 17 mg per day. For children between 9 and 13 years of age, the upper tolerable limit is 11 mg per day, for children between 4 and 8 years of age, 6 mg per day, and for children between 1 and 3 years of age, 3 mg per day. An upper tolerable limit has been established for infants.
Pregnancy and Lactation: Boron is safe and harmless for pregnant and lactating women between 19 and 50 years of age when used in dosages below 20 mg. Pregnant and lactating women between 14 and 18 years of age should not take more than 17 mg of boron per day. Higher amounts could be harmful and should not be used by pregnant and lactating women because they have been associated with birth defects. Boric acid used intravaginally is associated with an increase in the risk of birth defects by a factor of 2.7 to 2.8 when used during the first 4 months of pregnancy.
Hormone-sensitive diseases such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and endometriosis: boron could act like estrogen. Therefore, if you suffer from a disease that could be aggravated by estrogen, you should avoid boron in the form of supplements or foods high in boron.
Diseases of the kidneys or problems with kidney function: You should not use boron supplements if you suffer from kidney problems. The kidneys have to work hard to excrete boron.
Overdose / Poisoning
An overdose of boron can lead to symptoms of poisoning, whereby a distinction is made between acute and chronic poisoning. The symptoms of acute boron poisoning are cramps, vomiting (emesis), meningitis, diarrhea and collapse. Chronic boron poisoning results in gastritis, liver and kidney damage, pulmonary hemorrhage, pulmonary edema, water retention throughout the body, drowsiness, confusion, and depression.
It also results in an itchy dermatitis (skin inflammation) called psoriasis borica. A safely effective antidote is not known. Gastric lavage or the administration of medicinal charcoal in case of oral ingestion is not reliably effective. Therapy of poisoning is therefore primarily symptomatic. For example, in the case of severe vomiting, care must be taken to compensate for the loss of fluids and electrolytes.
Boron could increase estrogen levels in the body. Taking boron in combination with estrogen could cause estrogen levels to be too high.
There is some evidence that boron may interact with the thyroid gland. Boron could compete with iodine for uptake into the thyroid gland and reduce thyroid function. When thyroid function is reduced, it becomes larger to compensate for the underactivity. Over time, this can cause a goiter to form. Boron could contribute to hypothyroidism and goiter formation in rare cases and in large amounts (49).
Boron prevents the breakdown of vitamin D. In this way, it increases the amount of time each vitamin D molecule remains in the blood and, as a consequence, the total amount of vitamin D available to the body (3). Most people need to be more concerned about vitamin D deficiency than vitamin D poisoning, but too much of something good can still be dangerous. Supplementation with too much vitamin D can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bone pain, irregular heartbeat, and other symptoms. For this reason, taking too much vitamin D and boron should be avoided (75, 76).
Boron is an ultratrace element: it is relatively rare and makes up only a tiny portion of the human diet, but it is essential for bone and brain health, as well as reproductive health. Boron deficiency, like vitamin D deficiency, can cause problems with bone growth and healing. Dietary boron may also play a role in hormone regulation. Boric acid - a different form of boron than the forms found in dietary supplements - is used as a suppository to treat yeast infections, although this is not recommended as there are many safer and more effective remedies. Boric acid is toxic in large quantities and should never be taken orally.
Borax - which is also not found in supplements - is toxic to the kidneys, brain and reproductive system, but it is still used in some areas of the world as a food additive with the code E285. For most people, there is probably no need to supplement boron because it is found in many foods such as fruits, nuts, beans and peas. Some people already consume 7 mg of boron through their diet alone, and doctors recommend consuming no more than 20 mg of boron per day. Boron poisoning is rare because boron is easily excreted in the stool and through the urine. Some research suggests that boron may interact with the thyroid gland. When supplementing boron, make sure to also take enough iodine to prevent thyroid problems. Boron also enhances the effects of vitamin D. Too much vitamin D and boron taken together can cause health problems.