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Boron is the fifth element of the periodic table, and trace amounts can be found in the Earth’s crust. Even though boron is a trace element, it is critical for plant and animal biology. In fact, boron deficiency in plants is a major concern for farmers, being the second most common micronutrient deficiency (1). With boron micronutrient deficiency common in crops, it’s likely that most people are likewise deficient in boron, and that’s a big deal. Before we cover all of boron’s amazing health benefits, we need to understand the interactions of vitamin D, magnesium, and testosterone, as boron has major positive effects on these three systems.
The Importance Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Testosterone
For the general populace, vitamin D and magnesium are the first and second most common micronutrient deficiencies. It has been estimated that as many as 1 billion people around the world are vitamin D deficient, a staggering statistic (2). A vitamin D deficiency can have wide ranging negative effects on your health, such as increased risk of infection, fatigue, depression, muscular pain, bone loss, hair loss, and more. Insufficient magnesium is the second most common micronutrient deficiency, and the possible symptoms are likewise unpleasant, ranging from high blood pressure and asthma to mental disorders and weak bones. To finish the trifecta, testosterone levels have been decreasing in men for decades (3,4), due to a variety of factors such as the use of plastics. Vitamin D and magnesium are critical for proper hormone health, and the consequences of altering male hormones on a population level are frightening (5). Side effects of low testosterone include the loss of muscle and bone mass, crippling fatigue, severe mood changes, a greatly diminished sex drive, and increased body fat.
If any or all three of these factors are out of whack, serious health problems can arise. So where does boron come into play?
Luckily, it has been found that supplementing with mere milligrams of boron greatly improves vitamin D and magnesium absorption. In addition, boron has been found to have the ability to raise free testosterone levels significantly. More testosterone and stronger bones just by supplementing boron? Sounds like a win-win!
Enjoy the Superpowers of Wolverine
Summarized from the research paper Nothing Boring About Boron by Lara Pizzorno, boron has been proven to be an important trace mineral for the following known reasons (6):
Boron is essential for the growth and maintenance of bone.
Boron was found to reduce calcium excretion in boron deficient post-menopausal women by 44%. Also at play was magnesium, and when magnesium levels were adequate, women lost 22 mg/day of calcium, while those low in magnesium lost 52 mg/day (7).
In vitamin-D deficient animals (chicks and rats), boron supplementation helped stimulate bone growth (8).
Boron greatly improves wound healing.
One study found that when a 3% boric acid solution was applied to deep wounds, the time required in intensive care was reduced by two-thirds, 20 versus 55 days (9). For the 12 patients applied the boric acid solution, this collectively resulted in approximately $350,000 USD in reduced medical expenses (in 1990)!
The mechanisms responsible for this dramatic improvement in wound healing was further investigated, and it was found that boron has direct actions on specific enzymes found in fibroblasts (10). Fibroblasts are the most common cells found in animal connective tissue, responsible for synthesizing the connective tissues extracellular matrix and collagen. If you have bad joints, learn more about how you can help regrow your cartilage with muscle flossing.
Boron beneficially improves hormone levels (estradiol and testosterone).
In the same study on post-menopausal women, boron supplementation of 3mg/day in the magnesium deficient group almost doubled serum estradiol levels, increasing E2 from an average of 21.1 pg/mL to 41.4 pg/mL, and testosterone nearly tripled, rising from an average of 0.31 ng/mL to 0.83 ng/mL. For the magnesium adequate group, E2 rose from an average of 15.5 pg/mL to 38.0 pg/mL, and testosterone increased from 0.38 ng/mL to 0.65 ng/mL (7).
In eight healthy men who supplemented with 6 mg/day of boron for a week, free testosterone levels increased 28% from 11.83 pg/mL to 15.18 pg/mL, and E2 decreased 61% from 42.33 pg/mL to 25.81 pg/mL (11).
Boron greatly improves Vitamin D status, the most common micronutrient deficiency.
In a different study on eight men, 10 mg of boron per day supplemented for four weeks increased E2 levels from 51.9 to 73.9 pmol/L, and total testosterone levels increased from 17.4 to 19.4 nmol/L (12). It is still unclear why estradiol levels decreased overall in the subjects in one study and increased overall in the other.In a clinical trial five men and ten women were placed on a low-boron diet (regular western diet, also marginal in magnesium and copper), for 63 days. Afterwards, 3 mg of boron was supplemented per day for 49 days. Vitamin D levels increased from an average of 44.9 nM after boron deprivation to 62.4 nM after the 49 days of boron repletion, a 39% increase (13).
During the winter months, 13 middle-aged individuals predetermined to be vitamin D deficient (serum vitamin D3 < 12 ng/mL), were given 6mg of boron per day for 60 days. The study took place beginning in October and concluded by January, a seasonal time period when vitamin-D status would be expected to worsen. After 60 days of boron supplementation, vitamin D3 levels rose by an average of 20%, which is phenomenal (14).
It is hypothesized and scientifically supported that boron increases vitamin D levels by suppressing the activity of 24-hydroxylase, the microsomal enzyme primarily responsible for the catabolism (breakdown) of vitamin D. The suppression of this enzyme increases the half-life of vitamin D in serum, therefore increasing vitamin D levels overall (14).
Boron is cancer protective and reduces the adverse effects of chemotherapy.
On a broad scale, boron-rich diets (from regions where the soil and water are rich in boron) correlate with lower risks of several types of cancer, including breast, cervical, prostate, and lung cancers. Boron-containing compounds interfere with a variety of fundamental cellular mechanisms, negatively effecting the reproduction and physiology of cancer cells (15).
In one study, men whose diets supplied more than 1.8 mg of boron per day lowered the risk of prostate cancer by 52% lower compared to men whose dietary boron intake was 0.9 mg per day or less (16).
In one ten year study on post-menopausal women, those who were not on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and had a boron intake of 0.77 mg or less per day had a 95% increased odds of developing lung cancer compared to women on HRT who had a dietary intake of 1.25 mg of boron per day (17).
One of boron’s main anti-cancer mechanistic effects is a result of how boron directly interacts with cancer cells. With a boron rich diet (3-10 mg), sugar-borate esters transport borate in greater quantities inside cells, increasing the intracellular concentration of borate. High intracellular borate concetrations can lead to growth inhibition and apoptosis (cellular death). In normal cells, the borate is easily exported from normal cells. Sugar hungry cancer cells however commonly over-express sugar transporters, and are less effective at reducing intracellular levels of borate. As a result, a boron-rich diet exerts a protect anti-cancer effect, sparing healthy cells but killing cancer cells (18).
Reading that list to me sounds like supplementing with boron is an easy way to enjoy all the superpowers of Wolverine! Clearly reduced in effect of course. Boron contributes to stronger bones, faster wound healing, higher vitamin D and testosterone levels, and is cancer protective.
Other Beneficial Effects of Boron
In addition to the more well known effects above, boron has also been shown to have the following beneficial effects:
Boron reduces levels of inflammatory biomarkers, such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α)
Boron raises levels of antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase
Boron protects against pesticide-induced oxidative stress and heavy-metal toxicity
Boron improves the brains electrical activity, cognitive performance, and short-term memory for elders
How to Supplement with Boron
On average most people ingest about 2 mg of Boron a day (19), which is under the 3 mg or greater ideal dietary intake as shown via the scientific research. A diet low in plant products such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, someones dietary intake of boron could be much less than 3 mg per day.
If you want to bump up your boron intake, the best and most economical way to supplement boron is with borax. Yes, sodium borate (borax)! It's just as safe as table salt (similar LD50 as NaCl for Rats, and likely by extension, humans), and since it is a salt, highly bioavailable. Buy a box from 20 Mule Team which is nicely refined and pure, and save a small jar for personal use. Use the rest for your laundry if you'd like!
Most studies on boron supplementation use a dose of 3 mg of elemental boron (again through a compound like borax). Sometimes boron fructoborate was used in the studies, but borax is just as bioavailable, and much cheaper. The testosterone raising studies used 6-10 mg of boron (R). Let's supplement with the upper dose.
To supplement with 10 mg of elemental boron via borax, ~88.5 mg of borax is required based on the chemical formula of Na2[B4O5(OH)4]·8H2O and elemental molecular weights. To estimate the volume of the scooper needed, we need to know the density of borax. Borax has a density of 1.73 g/cm³, so 88.5 mg of borax (10 mg boron) requires approximately a 0.05 ml scoop. Buy this G82 Ultra Small Measuring Spoon (pictured), add it to your borax jar, and take a scoop everyday. With no taste and the ability to fully dissolve, taking a scoop of borax everyday couldn't be easier. Add the scoop to a glass of water, a smoothie, or a pre-workout drink like I do, it won’t even be noticed!
Pass the Boron, Please!
With it’s wide ranging health benefits, extreme safety, beyond cheap price, and unbelievable ease of supplementation, boron is a micronutrient everyone should make sure to get enough of. If you’d rather pass on the borax and stick to whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and nuts are your best sources of boron, with raisins, almonds, hazelnuts, avocados, and walnuts all being excellent sources.
Make an effort to get more boron in your diet and take note of how you feel. If you feel a difference or have thoughts of your own please share your experiences in the comments below!
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Stefan Burns is the creator and main author of Wild Free Organic. A swimmer in high school, soon afterwards he discovered a passion for the health, wellness, and fitness fields. Stefan is a jack of all trades, expertly knowing how to use all the different wellness “tools” available to radically and permanently transform one’s health, from fasting and sauna usage to calisthenics and powerlifting.
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