When you read about nutrients for bone health, the "usual suspects" are calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and maybe one or two more. But in fact, there are 20 key nutrients for bone health, and the fact that some of them are needed only in small amounts doesn't make them any less important. Take boron, one of those often-overlooked micronutrients so important for optimal bone health.
Boron, a "booster" for key bone nutrients
If you've never heard of the bone health benefits of boron, you're not alone; However, science has known for decades that it has a huge impact on how we use some of those key bone macronutrients. It acts as a "booster" for several of the major bone builders.
Calcium and magnesium, for example, are strongly affected by the presence or absence of boron. With too little boron, calcium excretion increases and magnesium absorption decreases, which is very bad for the bones. However, it ensures adequate boron levels, and these problems are quickly reversed.
In one trial, supplementation with 3 mg / day of boron reduced calcium loss by 44% in women with adequate magnesium in less than a month.
In low-magnesium women, calcium loss was cut in half, but it would have been interesting to see how that changed over a period of time longer than the 28 days of the study.
So, what about that other critical bone-building nutrient, vitamin D? If you guessed that boron also helps maintain vitamin D levels, you were right.
It helps the body make more effective use of vitamin D by acting as a stabilizer for this short-lived nutrient. The same dose used in the calcium and magnesium studies produced a 39% increase in vitamin D in approximately 2 months in boron-deficient individuals.
We could continue talking about all the benefits that this mineral offers not only for bones, but also for hormonal balance, brain health and anti-inflammatory activity.
But we get the idea: boron is something we need. And if you're also thinking that it's something the average diet doesn't offer enough, well, you're right on that score too.
Very common consumption of fruits and vegetables results in a low boron intake of about 1 mg per day in the US alone.However, many human health studies show that the benefits of boron are seen at a dose greater than or equal to 3 mg / day .
Dos and Don'ts for Boron in the Diet
Like many other key nutrients, the key to getting enough of this mineral in your diet is eating a variety of fresh, whole fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Avocados, apricots, cashews, almonds, dates, peanuts, prunes, raisins, lentils, and hazelnuts are some examples of foods high in boron and are among the best sources of boron in the diet.
For those of us who struggle with conditions that limit our access to boron-rich foods, for example, an allergy to nuts, supplementation with 3 mg / day of boron has been shown to be safe and effective.
If there is a "definitely no", it is this: do not turn to boric acid or borax for dietary supplementation. Not all boron is created equal.
In food, boron is found as borates (various combinations of boron with oxygen), which are generally inert and harmless, but some online media have advocated the use of forms found in pesticides and cleaning products: boric acid (H3BO3) and sodium borate salts such as sodium tetraborate (borax).
Both boric acid and borax are caustic chemicals. Exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, and the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth, but consuming them can harm or kill you.
It is illegal to use both as a food additive for this reason, and there are reports in the medical literature of serious poisonings caused by consuming as little as 21 grams of boric acid (the less toxic of the two).
Online claims about the "health benefits of borax" are based on a poor understanding of ongoing research as to whether these boron-containing molecules could be used to kill cancer cells or pathogenic microbes, but this does not mean that these substances are safe to eat.
So, strengthen your bones with an extra serving of guacamole or peanut butter, and leave the borax in the laundry.
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