What Is Boron Deficiency?

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Research on boron increasingly points to its importance for human health. Although there are no clearly defined deficiency symptoms or required intakes for boron, there is mounting evidence that missing out on this micronutrient puts your health at a disadvantage.

Here's what studies on plants, animals, and humans can teach us about the trace mineral, boron.

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Boron Deficiency Symptoms

Signs of boron deficiency were first identified in plants during the 1920s. Scientists discovered that plants deficient in boron have reproductive issues, along with impaired growth and development.

Later studies confirmed that small animals, including frogs, zebrafish, and mice exhibit evidence of boron deficiencies that include:

  • Atrophied ovaries
  • Low sperm counts
  • Poor embryonic development
  • Reduced egg quality
  • Sperm morphology defects

Other animal studies also show the impact of boron deficiency on bone health. Without enough boron, animals are more likely to have abnormal limb development and decreased bone strength.

Boron appears to play a role in the regulation of various hormones, including vitamin D, estrogen, thyroid hormone, and insulin. This observation could have implications for boron in bone health for all animals, including humans.

Boron Deficiency in Humans

Researchers are still investigating the role of boron in human health. Once believed to be nonessential, boron is becoming more recognized as a vital contributor to several body systems.

Osteoarthritis, bone health, and cancer are some of the specific areas of interest. Small clinical studies on osteoarthritis provided participants with 6 milligrams (mg) of boron per day. The results demonstrated improvements in discomfort and inflammatory biomarkers when compared to placebo.

In locations where the average boron intakes are under 1 mg per day, arthritis incidence is between 20% to 70%. By comparison, populations that consume 3 mg to 10 mg per day have average incidence rates under 10%.

Statistics tell us that correlation does not prove causation. Nonetheless, this stark contrast implies that boron is worthy of more investigation.

Decreased rates of prostate, lung, and cervical cancers have been observed in population studies on boron. Women consuming 0.78 mg per day or less had twice the lung cancer risk of those getting a minimum of 1.25 mg per day.

Future double-blind randomized controlled trials comparing boron with placebo effects could help establish public health intake guidelines with practical applications.

Research on the effects of boron on brain health and the central nervous system is limited. Preliminary studies suggest that boron may contribute to dexterity, cognitive processing, and short-term memory.

Given that the average American gets just 1 mg of boron per day, a modest increase of 3 mg per day has the potential to improve a vast array of additional functions including:

Obtaining sufficient boron through a varied diet, rather than supplements, can help you avoid dangerous overdosing.

Causes

Low boron intakes are linked to insufficient consumption of plant foods or living in an area with boron-depleted soil. Regions with low-boron soil include Brazil, Japan, and most of the United States. Boron leaches from the soil with high levels of rainfall. Drier areas, like California, Turkey, Chile, Argentina, Russia, and Peru have more boron-rich soil.

Meat, fish, and dairy are poor sources of boron. Eating a variety of leafy veggies, fruits (especially avocados and raisins), legumes (including peanuts and peanut butter), and nuts can improve boron intakes. Fermented beverages like wine, ciders, and beer are good sources of boron as well.

Diagnosis

Blood concentration of boron generally remains steady regardless of intake, suggesting that it's highly regulated by the body. For instance, post-menopausal women have fasting blood levels ranging between 34 to 95 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).

Excess boron intake is likely excreted in the urine, making it difficult to assess boron status by taking bloodwork. Boron seems to accumulate in certain tissues, including bone, nails, and hair. Theoretically, boron status could be evaluated by testing these tissues.

However, it's more practical to determine if you're getting enough boron by using a dietary recall. A normally functioning digestive system absorbs 85% to 95% of boron from food and drinks.

It's unlikely that your doctor would agree to check your boron status due to a lack of well-established protocols or measurements for boron in humans. However, evaluating your health and nutritional intakes holistically by paying attention to what you eat can provide useful insight on areas for improvement.

Treatment

There is no established adequate intake for boron, but the tolerable upper intake level is set at 20 mg per day. Many of boron's suspected health benefits seem to be associated with intakes at 3 mg per day or more.

Researchers estimate that 3 mg per day is well within the safe limits for boron consumption and could benefit collective public health, especially considering that the majority of Americans are currently below this level.

Emphasizing plant-based meals over heavy meat intakes stands to benefit human health in various ways that go beyond just boosting boron levels. Meeting with a registered dietitian can help you establish a nutritious eating pattern that covers your nutritional basis for a wide range of vital micronutrients.

If you take a multivitamin, check to see if it contains boron. Because boron is a trace mineral that can be toxic in excess, it's best to avoid high-dosage supplements unless recommended by your doctor.

Children are particularly susceptible to the potential dangers of boron toxicity, so be aware that boron is present in several household cleaning products and pesticides.

If you suspect that you or your child have been exposed to toxic levels of boron, call 911 for immediate help or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for free and confidential advice.

A Word From Verywell

The potential effects of insufficient boron intake underscore the benefits of a whole foods and nutrient-rich pattern of eating. While science isn't always able to pinpoint an exact prescription for optimal micronutrient intakes, it's clear that habitual consumption of colorful plant foods contributes to our total health in dynamic ways.

Diversity is the spice of life, even when it comes to what's on our plates. Rather than fixating on the details of your meal plan, include a range of nutritious ingredients to reap the benefits for your long-term health.

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  3. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Boron fact sheet for health professionals. Updated June 3, 2020.