While studies of boron in the human body are ongoing, it appears to help maintain a healthy level of calcium balance, preventing osteoporosis and keeping bones healthy. Boron may end up being called the next essential “trace” mineral.
Boron seems to be concentrated mostly in the parathyroid glands, which also suggests boron is tied to bone health and calcium metabolism.
While boric acid has been a staple for decades as an antiseptic and an astringent for the eyes and skin, boron is probably most commonly used as a medicine in the form of boric acid eye wash. The use of boric acid is not recommended for small children or infants. Excessive use of boric acid can result in gastrointestinal upset or dry skin.
Further research is necessary to identify how much boron is needed on a daily basis and exactly what role boron plays in maintaining a healthy body. Most research currently being conducted regarding boron levels in the human body is through government-funded programs.
Sources of Boron
Available in the soil and in certain whole foods, boron is found in high amounts in fruits such as grapes, pears and apples. Other good sources of boron include legumes, leafy greens, peanuts, prunes and avocados. Meat and fish are known to be poor sources of boron. Diets which are high in refined foods are known to provide insufficient quantities of boron and can lead to problems with boron deficiencies.
Functions of Boron
While more research is necessary to completely understand boron and its effects on the human body, it would appear that boron affects the balance of calcium, phosphorous and magnesium. Boron could affect the makeup of the bones in the body by regulating the hormones which control these important functions. Boron may be essential in preventing bone loss and osteoporosis. Some studies suggest boron may be as important to the bone health of an individual as calcium.
Boron seems to be closely tied to vitamin D, and a deficiency in both of these items might be the key for a disruption of calcium in the body. Because boron plays a role in calcium metabolism, low levels of this mineral may be tied to arthritis and hypertension. Normal levels of calcium and magnesium in the body typically help maintain “normal” blood pressure, while abnormal deposits of calcium are thought to lead to plaque in the arteries and irritation of the joints.
Some animal research indicates that boron could enhance the utilization of vitamin D3, helping to modulate the processes which regulate the immune system and inflammation in the body.
Boron may also play a critical role in the regulation of blood sugar. Some studies with animals are showing a need for greater insulin secretion when boron deficiencies are present. As short-term memory, attention span and eye-hand coordination seem to be affected when low levels of boron are in the body, this mineral may also be crucial to proper brain function.
Uses of Boron
Current thought in many medical circles is to provide enough boron in the diet to maintain healthy bones. Many of the current bone-replenishing nutritional formulas contain boron. Elderly individuals and those who are at risk for contracting osteoporosis should consume foods rich in boron and may require supplements of boron. While further studies are needed, boron does seem to play a role in the healthy maintenance of bones in the human body.
In studies with postmenopausal women (who are typically at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis), boron was thought to work like estrogen to help prevent the loss of essential minerals in the bones. If further research confirms this train of thought to be true, boron could become a much safer alternative than estrogen-replacement therapy.
At this time most boron toxicity is due to its excessive use or to a sensitivity of boric acid. In such cases, the ingestion of boric acid may cause immediate symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. More pronounced problems as time progresses could include seizures, skin problems, anemia and hair loss.
Exposure to liquid boron or diborane inhalation can have a negative effect on the lungs and the nervous system. Boron toxicity may also account for a loss of vitamin B2 through the urine. A deficiency in boron would be more likely than toxicity, and can be associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis.
Boron appears to move through the human bloodstream in the form of boric acid and has the ability to latch onto and let go of many other nutrients, including vitamins B2, B6, and a form of vitamin C.
Arthritis may also be affected by the levels of boron in the soil. Natives of Jamaica have a high incidence of arthritis, with low levels of boron in the soil. Israel has a high level of boron in the soil and its citizens have few problems with arthritis.
No other symptoms of boron deficiency are known at this time.
While there is no recommended minimums for boron currently, most health care practitioners believe about 1 mg daily is a sufficient dosage. The National Academy of Sciences set an upper limit on boron in the year 2000 of 20 mg for adults who are aged 19 or older.
Some research has shown that from 3 to 5 mg of boron can aid in calcium retention. When boron is deficient in the body, daily losses of calcium and magnesium are higher than when more boron is present.
When research was performed on a group of people with low-boron diets who then received 3 mg of boron daily through supplements, the research subjects showed substantially lower daily losses of both calcium and magnesium than when they were on their boron-deficient diets.
Research conducted by the Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in the U.S. conclusively proved that an intake of 3 to 5 mg of boron daily improved calcium retention.
Many multivitamin/mineral supplements are adding boron to their contents. As research into boron continues, the role this mineral plays in maintaining a healthy body may become much clearer.
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