An Overlooked MicronutrientApril 2018
By Jasenka Piljac Zegarac
When it comes to nutrients that have critical roles in the body, there are the superstars, and then there are the unsung heroes.
Boron is one of the unsung heroes.
Boron, a trace mineral, remains underappreciated for its multiple roles in human health.1
While not widely known like vitamin D, boron plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health by preventing calcium loss.2-5
Equally important, boron has demonstrated anticancer properties—specifically in the prostate, cervix, and lungs.6-8
As you will learn in this article, boron plays an essential role in healthy aging.
The good news is that most readers of this magazine have obtained ample boron potencies in their multinutrient supplements.
What you need to know
- Boron is a trace mineral found in the earth’s crust and in water.
- While its importance for human health has been largely overlooked, studies indicate that it is essential for the body to function properly.
- Boron is critical for strong and healthy bones.
- Numerous human and animal studies point to its strong anticancer effects, especially in cervical, lung, and prostate cancers.
- Boron levels in foods can be inconsistent, making supplementation the key to obtaining the benefits of this underappreciated mineral.
Boron and Bone Health
Most of us take our bones for granted.
Little do we realize that bones are living structures that renew throughout life. To maintain structural density, our bones need specific nutrients.
The first connection between boron and bone growth was made in 1981. A study conducted in vitamin-deficient chickens found that supplementation with boron promoted bone growth and enhanced skeletal structure.9
Since then, several studies conducted in human subjects confirmed the important connection between boron and bone health. In fact, among all tissues of the human body, bones, hair, and nails harbor the highest concentrations of boron.10
One of the features that makes boron so critical for bone health is that it prevents calcium loss, while also alleviating the problems associated with magnesium and vitamin D deficiency.3,11
Magnesium and vitamin D are both necessary for the absorption and metabolism of calcium.12 Low levels of any of these nutrients spell trouble for your bones.
These overlapping effects were seen in a study of 12 postmenopausal women, a group known for having an increased risk of osteoporosis.11 All of the women were given 3 mg of boron per day, but one group consumed a low-magnesium diet, while the other consumed adequate magnesium.
The researchers found that supplementation with boron prevented calcium loss and bone demineralization by reducing urinary excretion of both calcium and magnesium. This reduction was more marked on the low magnesium group. In other words, boron helped minimize loss of calcium and magnesium from bones.
More recently, a study in female rats showed just how harmful a boron deficiency is to bone health. A deficiency in boron resulted in:
- Decreased bone volume fraction, a measure of bone strength
- Decreased thickness of the bone’s spongy inner layer
- Decreased maximum force needed to break the femur
But when rats were given boron and fish oil together, the duo exerted beneficial effects on the strength of the outer surface of the bone (called cortical bone) and microarchitecture of the spongy, inner layer of bone (called the trabecular bone).13
In this way, boron impacted both the quantity and the quality of bone. Bone density refers to the quantity of bone, while microarchitecture refers to its quality. It is related to the mechanical strength of the bone, which impacts fracture risk.
A study published in the Archives of Oral Biology confirmed that a deficiency in boron adversely affects bone formation and microstructure.4 In this study, mice fed a boron-deficient diet had a 63% reduction in the percentage of osteoblast (bone-making cell) surfaces compared to control mice. In addition, the two main processes governing bone structure and mass formation (bone modeling and remodeling) were altered in mice on a boron-deficient diet. As a result, bone formation was inhibited in these boron-deficient mice.
Clearly, having ample boron is essential for many underlying factors that contribute to stronger bones.
Boron doesn’t just keep our bones healthy. It also works tirelessly to prevent cancer from getting a start in our body.
Boron works through numerous mechanisms to support anticancer effects. One of the best examples of this is its impact on cervical cancer.
Turkey is a country with an extremely low incidence of cervical cancer, and scientists believe this can be partially attributed to its boron-rich soil.1,14,15 When comparing women who live in boron-rich regions versus boron-poor regions of Turkey, not a single woman living in the boron-rich regions had any indication of cervical cancer. (The mean dietary intake of boron for women in this group was 8.41 mg/day.)
There’s a good scientific explanation for this remarkable protection. Studies show that boron interferes with the life cycle of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a contributing factor in approximately 95% of all cervical cancers.1
Boric acid (the form in which boron occurs in nature) is a serine protease inhibitor, and serine protease inhibitors have been found to inactivate the E7 oncoprotein expressed by high-risk HPV strains (HPV-16 and HPV-18).16 Inactivation of the E7 oncoprotein helps prevent cervical cancer because it interferes with tumor growth and malignant transformation.
Cervical cancer is just the start. Research shows that boron-rich diets and boron-rich geographic regions are associated with a lower incidence of lung and prostate cancers as well.1,17
Considering that HPV viruses are increasingly implicated in head and neck cancers,18,19 supplementation with this ultra-low cost mineral could have significant benefits in protecting against this malignancy that is increasing in prevalence, even in nonsmokers.
Boron and Lung Cancer
A study conducted at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center between 1995 and 2005 examined the effects of boron intake and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in postmenopausal women. Hormone replacement therapy reduces the risk of lung cancer in women, and researchers wanted to find out the joint effects of boron intake and hormone replacement therapy use on lung-cancer risk.17
The results showed that increased boron intake was associated with a lower risk of lung cancer.17 The highest risk of lung cancer was observed in women who did not use hormone replacement therapy and whose dietary intake of boron was low. A more than two-fold increased risk for lung cancer was observed in this group of women compared to women with high dietary boron intake who used hormone replacement therapy.
Researchers postulated that the difference in lung cancer risk may have been due to the fact that women with high dietary boron intakes who also used hormone replacement therapy have higher estradiol levels. Estradiol has a greater affinity for binding to estrogen receptors than the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from cigarette smoke—an action that would help prevent the initiation of cancer.17
Boron and Prostate Cancer
The most compelling evidence of boron’s anticancer properties stems from research on prostate cancer. Studies conducted both in animal and human cancer-cell lines point to boron’s ability to inhibit the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells.
Research conducted in mice found that when they were exposed to boric acid, tumors shrank by as much as 38%.20
Boric acid has also been shown to inhibit the spread of human prostate cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner.6
A human study has confirmed these findings, showing that boron intake was associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer in humans.7 When the researchers compared the boron intake of 95 patients with prostate cancer with that of 8,720 men without cancer, they found a dose-dependent association between increased boron intake and a decreased prostate cancer risk.
With data pointing to a 66% rise in the global incidence of prostate cancer between 2005 and 201521—and with more than 1.5 million men affected in 2015 alone—finding natural ways to combat prostate cancer is more important now than ever.22
Among the many essential nutrients, boron has been widely overlooked.
Science has demonstrated the beneficial effects of boron on bone and prostate health. And numerous studies have demonstrated boron’s anticancer properties as well.
Researchers largely agree that a mean dietary intake of boron of 3 mg a day is needed to confer clinical benefit.
Because the amount of boron varies in the soil based on geographical location, obtaining enough boron through diet alone can be difficult. Supplementing with low-cost boron is an effective way to maintain adequate levels of this overlooked micronutrient.
For many years, most Life Extension® supporters have been getting 3 to 6 mg of boron in their multi-nutrient supplements. For most individuals, this represents a likely optimal amount.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
- Pizzorno L. Nothing Boring About Boron. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015;14(4):35-48.
- Chapin RE, Ku WW, Kenney MA, et al. The effects of dietary boron on bone strength in rats. Fundam Appl Toxicol. 1997;35(2):205-15.
- Nielsen FH. Studies on the relationship between boron and magnesium which possibly affects the formation and maintenance of bones. Magnes Trace Elem. 1990;9(2):61-9.
- Gorustovich AA, Steimetz T, Nielsen FH, et al. A histomorphometric study of alveolar bone modelling and remodelling in mice fed a boron-deficient diet. Arch Oral Biol. 2008;53(7):677-82.
- Available at: http://www.anaturalhealingcenter.com/documents/Thorne/articles/Boron.pdf. Accessed January 8, 2018.
- Barranco WT, Eckhert CD. Boric acid inhibits human prostate cancer cell proliferation. Cancer Lett. 2004;216(1):21-9.
- Cui Y, Winton MI, Zhang ZF, et al. Dietary boron intake and prostate cancer risk. Oncol Rep. 2004;11(4):887-92.
- Scorei RI, Popa R, Jr. Boron-containing compounds as preventive and chemotherapeutic agents for cancer. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2010;10(4):346-51.
- D Hunt C, Nielsen F. Interaction Between Boron and Cholecalciferol in the Chick. 1981.
- Moseman RF. Chemical disposition of boron in animals and humans. Environ Health Perspect. 1994;102 Suppl 7:113-7.
- Nielsen FH, Hunt CD, Mullen LM, et al. Effect of dietary boron on mineral, estrogen, and testosterone metabolism in postmenopausal women. Faseb j. 1987;1(5):394-7.
- Yamada S, Inaba M. Osteoporosis and mineral intake. Clin Calcium. 2004;14(12):96-9.
- Nielsen FH, Stoecker BJ. Boron and fish oil have different beneficial effects on strength and trabecular microarchitecture of bone. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2009;23(3):195-203.
- Korkmaz M, Uzgoren E, Bakirdere S, et al. Effects of dietary boron on cervical cytopathology and on micronucleus frequency in exfoliated buccal cells. Environ Toxicol. 2007;22(1):17-25.
- Simsek A, Velioglu YS, Coskun AL, et al. Boron concentrations in selected foods from borate-producing regions in Turkey. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2003;83(6):586-92.
- Stoppler H, Stoppler MC, Adduci A, et al. The serine protease inhibitors TLCK and TPCK react with the RB-binding core of HPV-18 E7 protein and abolish its RB-binding capability. Virology. 1996;217(2):542-53.
- Mahabir S, Spitz MR, Barrera SL, et al. Dietary boron and hormone replacement therapy as risk factors for lung cancer in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2008;167(9):1070-80.
- Zandberg DP, Bhargava R, Badin S, et al. The role of human papillomavirus in nongenital cancers. CA Cancer J Clin. 2013;63(1):57-81.
- Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/basic_info/hpv_oropharyngeal.htm. Accessed January 23, 2018.
- Gallardo-Williams MT, Chapin RE, King PE, et al. Boron supplementation inhibits the growth and local expression of IGF-1 in human prostate adenocarcinoma (LNCaP) tumors in nude mice. Toxicol Pathol. 2004;32(1):73-8.
- Fitzmaurice C, Allen C, Barber RM, et al. Global, Regional, and National Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Years of Life Lost, Years Lived With Disability, and Disability-Adjusted Life-years for 32 Cancer Groups, 1990 to 2015: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. JAMA Oncol. 2017;3(4):524-48.
- Mucci LA, Pernar CH, Peisch S, et al. Prostate cancer incidence as an iceberg. Eur J Epidemiol. 2017;32(6):477-9.