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The health industry just can’t decide whether coffee’s good or bad for you. There’s science on both sides, making it hard to tease apart who’s right and who’s wrong. None of this probably matters to coffee drinkers, who need that cup of joe to get going in the morning. And while we can’t settle the matter for you, we can give you another point in coffee’s favor: its boron content.
Boron is a trace element found naturally in many of the foods you’re already eating if you’re trying to cut down on processed foods. Leafy green vegetables are a particularly good source of the element. But though it’s found in many health-boosting foods, boron has no established recommended dietary allowance (RDA) because it has yet to be declared an essential nutrient. It also hasn’t been proven that boron deficiency causes any diseases, but there’s evidence that low boron intake can cause side effects such as improper bone development, brain function, and immune response (Nielsen, 2008). Still, it’s not uncommon for people to take boron as a supplement, and there are several different forms, including boron citrate and boric acid—which we’ll get to later on.
But just because you haven’t heard this element mentioned since high school Chemistry doesn’t mean it can’t do things for your health. Boron is potentially important when it comes to building healthy bones.
- Boron is a trace element but has no recommended dietary allowance.
- You’re already getting some boron through healthy foods like greens and apples.
- Boron may help fight osteoporosis by preventing bone loss and boosting mineralization.
- It may also help fight cancer and is already used in some chemotherapy treatments.
- Boron citrate is the most common form found in supplements.
Boron citrate and bone health
By the time we’re worried about our bone health, the time to focus on bone formation is, well, long since past. Increasing bone density or strength is the name of the game as you age—and boron citrate might just be a powerful tool to help you do just that and, in the process, stave off bone loss and associated diseases like osteopenia and osteoporosis.
You likely know that osteoporosis is a bigger concern for postmenopausal women than it is for men or premenopausal women. There are a couple of reasons for that. Bone loss in women starts around the time of menopause (Nordin, 1997). Women’s estrogen levels drop, and since estrogen is protective of bone, this allows osteoclasts (cells that break down bone) to live longer. Since these cells are around longer, they’re able to resorb more bone, releasing more calcium into the blood that is eventually excreted through urine. But estrogen is essential for calcium absorption. Translation: it gets really difficult for postmenopausal women to keep their calcium levels where they need to be to prevent bone loss. But one study found that boron supplements (3 mg per day) reduced daily urinary calcium excretion by 44% in participants (Nielsen, 1987).
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But that’s not the only effect of boron that could help support healthy bone mass later in life. The same study observed that boron supplements used to bring levels of this mineral up to that of an average dietary intake also increased serum levels of estradiol (E2), the strongest of the three estrogens, as well as testosterone levels (Neilsen,1987). If boron can increase estrogen levels and decrease urinary excretion of calcium, it should be able to slow bone loss.
Boron may also support the strength of bones by acting as a catalyst for bone mineralization (Hakki, 2010). Bone mineral density, the number of minerals found per area of bone, is a key indicator of their strength, and it’s this characteristic that is undermined by diseases like osteoporosis. There’s also some research that suggests that this element may also affect the metabolism of vitamin D, which is also essential for proper bone health, including remodeling, and stave off vitamin D deficiency (Hunt, 1994). At this point, however, we cannot say that these findings hold true in humans because they used animals in the research.
Additional benefits of boron citrate
The exact roles of boron in the body are unclear, as are the consequences of low boron intake. It is thought that boron may play a role in other processes such as inflammation and regulating other electrolytes. However, at this time, there isn’t enough information to confidently say what the health benefits of boron are.
How to get enough boron
Like we mentioned, you’re likely getting dietary boron already if you’re trying to eat healthfully and cut down on processed foods. Boron is found in leafy greens like spinach and kale, but the most common sources are apples, coffee, potatoes, milk, and beans. Coffee and milk actually don’t have that high of boron content, but we consume enough of them to drive them into the top five sources for boosting boron levels. Avocados, wine, peanut butter, peanuts, pecans, cocoa powder, and grape juice are also easy ways to boost your intake of boron (Food and Nutrition Board, 2001).
But boron supplementation is also an option, especially if you look at the list of foods with high amounts of boron above and realize you’re on a low-boron diet. There are different types of boron available if you’re looking into supplemental boron. Boron citrate is generally found in supplements aimed at boosting bone health, protecting the prostate, or increasing levels of testosterone. It’s more common to find boric acid in suppositories used to treat yeast infections in women.
Potential side effects of boron
Though there’s no RDA for boron, there is a tolerable upper intake level (UL) established at 20 mg per day. But since the average intake in America was between 1.5 mg and 3 mg per day in 1998, and it’s believed the average intake has dropped since then, most people are nowhere near this limit, even with supplements (Pizzorno, 2015). Daily doses up to 3 mg per day are generally deemed safe, and most studies that revealed the importance of boron looked at doses of the same size.