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Boron helps build bones. This underestimated micronutrient also helps with brain function and in recovery from exercise.

There is nothing boring about boron. Although this micronutrient is present in a healthy diet only in tiny amounts, the nutritional benefits of boron are numerous. Boron:

  • Accelerates wound healing
  • Helps the body use vitamin D, estrogen, and testosterone
  • Reduces markers of inflammation such as tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and ,high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP)
  • Improves short-term memory in older people
  • Modulates the brain's electrical activity and enhances cognitive performance
  • Ameliorates the progression of prostate, cervical, and lung cancers, and multiple and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Helps relieve painful periods and vaginal infections
  • Boosts the absorption of magnesium
  • Protects against heavy metal toxicity
  • Prevents toxic reactions to pesticides (in humans, not in pests)
  • Increases the production of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase
  • Reduces the side effects of certain kinds of cancer chemotherapy
  • Improves bone health.

Cutting-edge research finds that boron complexes may inhibit the NLRP3 inflammasome, a tool the immune system uses to fight infection that may also overreact to trigger the inflammation underlying Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.  Some of the most common uses of boron are not fully documented. Bodybuilders take the micronutrient to enhance the activity of testosterone in muscle building and to accelerate recovery after a workout. College students take boron to help them cram for exams. The benefits of boron in health, however, are a little more clearcut. Let's take a closer look at how boron is good for your bones.

What does boron do for your bones?

In 1985, the US Department of Agriculture ran a study to determine the effects of boron and magnesium on calcium retention. Twelve women were put on a low-boron diet for 28 days. Then they were given boron supplements with or without additional magnesium. The scientists measured calcium loss under the variations of boron and magnesium status.

  • When women were given supplemental boron but no magnesium, their bodies retained an additional 22 mg of calcium per day.
  • When women were given both supplemental boron and supplemental magnesium, their bodies retained an additional 52 mg of calcium per day.
Boron helps bones conserve calcium. The combination of boron and magnesium is even better.

Boron also partially compensates for vitamin D deficiencies, especially as affect the sockets of the teeth. It helps a woman's body conserve estrogen during and after menopause. And boron helps the bone-building osteoblasts respond to 17β-estradiol [E2], testosterone, and vitamin D to make new bone.

What's the best way to get boron?

Boron is abundant in many plant foods. These foods not only provide the essential micronutrient, but they also "alkalize" the diet so the kidneys do not have to take calcium from bone to keep the blood at an acceptable pH.  The best common food source of boron is raisins. Three ounces (85 g) of raisins provide's more than a day's supply of boron. Three ounces of almonds or hazelnuts provide almost a day's supply of boron. Peanut butter, Brazil nuts, walnuts, kidney beans, prunes, dates, wine, lentils, and chickpeas are also good sources of this micronutrient. Fresh, whole plant foods such as peaches, celery, grapes, olives, apples, pears, celery,oranges, and onions contain about one-tenth as much boron as raisins, but they are otherwise highly beneficial for health. 

The kind of boron we get from food, boric acid, is exclusively available from plant foods. If your diet is heavy on meat and dairy and you don't eat fruit and vegetables, you may benefit from a boron supplement or a combination supplement that includes boron. Most North Americans get most of their boron from coffee and potatoes, which aren't especially good sources of the mineral.

How to use boron supplements

Boron hasn't been sufficiently studied that scientists have established a recommended daily intake (RDI). There is, however, an upper allowable limit: No one should take more than 20 mg of boron a day. Some people should take less.

  • 1–3 years: 3 mg/day
  • 4–8 years: 6 mg/day
  • 9–13 years: 11 mg/day
  • 14–18 years: 17 mg/day
  • Adults 19–50 years: 20 mg/day
  • Pregnant women: 17–20 mg/day
  • Women who are breastfeeding: 17- 20 mg/day

Most experts in mineral nutrition recommend taking at least 3 mg of boron every day, preferably in the form of boron citrate included in a balanced formula of bone nutrients. Boron is always better combined with magnesium and calcium supplementation, since it works with magnesium to help the body retain calcium. Any formula that offers up to 3 mg of boron with up to 1200 mg of calcium and 600 mg of magnesium daily is beneficial. Be careful about taking too much magnesium. If you have not been taking any magnesium at all, you may want to limit your use of magnesium to 300 or 400 mg a day while you digestive tract is getting used to it.

It is unusual for people to overdose boron. If you do, you may experience skin inflammation and peeling, tremors, weakness, convulsions,  headaches, depression, diarrhea, vomiting, and other symptoms. All of these symptoms will tend to occur at the same time. 

  • Benderdour M, Van Bui T, Hess K, Dicko A, Belleville F, Dousset B. Effects of boron derivatives on extracellular matrix formation. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2000.14(3):168–173.
  • Hakki SS, Bozkurt BS, Hakki EE. Boron regulates mineralized tissue-associated proteins in osteoblasts (MC3T3-E1) J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2010
  • 24(4):243–250.
  • Ying X, Cheng S, Wang W, et al. Effect of boron on osteogenic differentiation of human bone marrow stromal cells. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011.144(1–3):306–315.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth.com

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