Boron: the stealth mineral

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

November 2006

Boron is slowly creeping onto the nutrition stage, an actor whose role is still being defined. For decades scientists thought that it was essential for normal plant growth but that it had no function in animal species.

Medical researchers began exploring the biology of boron in the 1960s after they discovered that populations with a high intake of dietary boron had less arthritis than those with a low intake. Further studies revealed that boron interacts with other nutrients to make bone stronger. Although no one has ever described a boron-deficiency disease, boron contributes to overall health in subtle but important ways.

Most people believe that osteoporosis is due to a deficiency of calcium but the situation is much more complex. Calcium is important but without vitamin D, vitamin K, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium — and boron — the body isn't able to use calcium efficiently in order to build strong bones. It is lack of exercise as well as poor nutrition that lead to the fragile skeleton that is the hallmark of osteoporosis. If only calcium is lacking, the bones become soft and misshapen. They do not become brittle. Boron helps to make bone harder when calcium and other nutrients are available.

Boron also has an influence on the production of both male and female sex hormones. As boron intake increases, the risk of prostate cancer decreases. This may somehow be related to hormone factors

Persons with a higher intake of dietary boron do better on tests of coordination, manual dexterity, attention and memory than those whose intake is low. Brain chemistry is extremely complicated and the way that boron works continues to elude scientists.

Inflammation is the current darling of research programs, partly because studies done in the 90s suggested strongly that it plays a role in the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Boron helps to lower inflammation but the mechanism is unknown.

Is there a connection between boron and omega-3 fatty acids? Both have an effect on cell membranes and adding both nutrients to the diet improves arthritis, osteoporosis, brain function and immunity.

Boron is not nearly as plentiful in the earth's crust as other elements and it has a rather patchy distribution. During the long course of evolution certain population groups may have developed the ability to survive and thrive on low intakes of boron while others became dependent on high levels of it in their diet. The largest deposits are in Turkey, Tibet, Italy and some areas of South America. The Mojave Desert of California is the site of one of the two largest boron deposits on the planet. (Older readers may remember Death Valley Days, a television program that was hosted by Ronald Reagan and that featured the 20-mule teams after which a popular cleanser was named.) The Death Valley mine in Boron, California supplies nearly one-half the world's industrial supply of boron.

There are many solid reasons why everyone should have several servings of fruits and vegetables every day and you can add boron to that list. Four or 5 pieces of fresh or dried fruit will provide the amount of boron (2 to 3 milligrams) that is adequate for most people. Red wine, grape juice, nuts, peanut butter and coffee are good sources for those who are fruit-and-vegetable impaired.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.