Is A Boron Supplement Helpful In Osteoporosis Prevention And Treatment?
A boron supplement can assist with the absorption of calcium and magnesium. It can also help vitamin D to convert to the active form needed to support calcium absorption.
Fortunately, a few delicious snacks can also provide the boron we need for healthy bones.
Boron is a trace mineral (number five in the periodic table) that is most concentrated in our bones but is also found in our thyroid glands and associated organs.
Boron has been linked to significant improvements in both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis through numerous studies over the past decades.
The addition of a boron supplement to an osteoporosis treatment program has become common... but is it necessary?
What Does The Research Say?
Numerous studies have been conducted on the dietary intake of boron. A quick summary of the research is as follows.
- Boron assists with the absorption and utilization of calcium and magnesium (Feinstein, 1996)
- Boron may be essential in the conversion of vitamin D to the active form which supports calcium absorption. (Murray, 1996).
- A diet low in boron may exacerbate vitamin D and magnesium deficiencies or any condition in which these minerals are lost in urine.
- Boron is best if taken with a well balanced vitamin and mineral supplement including calcium, magnesium, and riboflavin (vitamin B2) (Hendler, 1991).
- A study involving 12 postmenopausal women who supplemented their diet with 3 mg of boron daily resulted in reduced calcium excretion by 44 percent and dramatically increased the levels of beta-estradiol, the most biologically active estrogen. (FH Nielsen, 1987)
- Boron deficiency causes decreased serum concentrations of estrogen and testosterone- which are associated with calcium loss and bone demineralization (Murray, 1996; Somer, 1995).
- Taking boron if you are already healthy and athletic doesn't seem to make any difference in bone density.
These studies have not involved the large number of participants or the many controls required of a drug trial. But they are impressive because of their consistency in showing a positive impact of boron on bone health.
How Much Boron Do We Need?
Although there is no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for boron, 1.5 to 3.0 milligrams daily is generally considered sufficient in a healthy diet.
In 2004, the NCEA (United States National Center for Environmental Assessment) increased its allowable daily dose of boron to 14 milligrams per day.
Studies have shown that dosages greater than 500 milligrams per day may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Where Is Boron Found?
Boron is mostly found in fruits (especially dried fruits), vegetables, nuts and pulses. Rich sources (in descending order) are:
- Red Wine
Small quantities of these foods will meet our daily requirement. For example, a half cup of prunes (about 100 grams) fulfills the daily requirement of 2 to 3 mg of boron. A boron supplement is generally not necessary for people who maintain a well-balanced diet.
Unfortunately, a typical American diet provides only 1 mg of boron per day, partly because of the enthusiasm for meat and carbohydrates rather than fruits and vegetables.
A radically low-carb diet may also lack sufficient boron unless the dieter is enriching it with greens and legumes. Similarly, an extreme low fat diet may exclude the nuts that are so rich in boron.
In these cases, a boron supplement may be necessary if the dieter is unwilling to make the necessary adjustments. Fortunately, a boron supplement is usually well absorbed and is generally bioavailable.
What About Boron In Water?
Water can be a great place to get boron but it is not a reliable source because concentrations vary so much throughout the world. In the US, boron in tap water is generally low (less than 1 milligram per liter) while in some cities in Canada it provides up to 2 milligrams per liter.
Boron in US and European bottled water ranges from trace amounts to 4.35 milligrams per liter. Interestingly, water supplies in northern Chile provide a high concentration of 15.2 milligrams of boron per liter! So when we travel to Chili, we can forget our boron supplement.
For more information on water sources of boron, read Bill Sardi's, "In Search of the World's Best Water."
Of course, for boron to assist with bone building we must be getting adequate calcium, magnesium and vitamin D either in our diet, through supplements or ideally a combination of the two sources.