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Balancing Calcium

Do you have osteoporosis, joint pain, arthritis, or other bone disease? Has your doctor performed a bone scan and recommended Fosamax because of low bone density? If so, you clearly have a Fosamax deficiency, or is it something else?

Boron is an underappreciated nutrient that plays an important role in bone and teeth health. It is classified as an essential micronutrient meaning your body does not produce it. Thus, you have to consume boron daily. And, boron is needed in our bodies at relatively high concentrations so it is not really a micronutrient. The need for boron is similar to that of magnesium, chloride, sodium, potassium, and calcium. Boron is found in the body at particularly high levels in the parathyroid glands.

Boron, in nature, is found in trace quantities. Plants do concentrate boron to some degree as this nutrient is essential to plant growth. I first learned about the need for boron from gardeners. Foods highest in boron include: apples, plums, grapes, avocados, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. But boron levels are often low in foods including these listed, depending upon where you live, leading to physiological insufficiencies in many of us. For example, apples are considered to be a good source of boron. However, to attain the minimum 3 mg daily intake of boron that is generally suggested, about eight apples must be eaten daily.

Boron is a nutrient that probably needs to be obtained by supplementation unless you are able to determine that the foods and water to which you have access have reasonable levels of boron. Blood testing for boron is available but not performed commonly.

Boron Quick Facts:

  • supports parathyroid health;

  • helps calcium absorption and balance;

  • reduces risk of arthritis; and

  • reduces risk of osteoporosis.

The parathyroid glands are important in tightly controlling calcium levels in the bloodstream. When boron is available in sufficient amounts, calcium levels are generally very stable. Calcium must be in balance to ensure the nervous system and the body’s muscles work properly, and also that boney substances remain strong. Calcium management is extraordinarily important as too much calcium in the bloodstream can lead to hardening of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis.

The main target organs where the parathyroid hormone exerts its effects are the bones and the kidneys. When calcium levels are low, parathyroid hormones are released by the parathyroid glands into the blood and causing bones to release calcium and increase levels in the bloodstream. It does this to keep your heart beating. It also causes the kidneys to stop calcium from being lost in urine as well as stimulating the kidneys to increase vitamin D metabolism. Boron prevents vitamin D deficiency by increasing its biological half-life, meaning it prolongs the amount of time vitamin D stays in your body in a useful form.

Boron is a regulator of vitamin D and calcium.

Boron must be consumed in food daily as it has a half-life of 21 hours which means it is being excreted pretty quickly. As with any substance, the dose makes the poison and the cure. The lethal dose of boron is thought to be about 15 to 20 grams. In many areas of the world, the level of boron in food and water is negligible. At low concentrations it is not lethal but it certainly is harmful because it is needed to regulate calcium.

The Mojave Desert, parts of China, Tibet, Jerusalem, and Turkey are regions high in soil boron levels. In these places, the intake of boron may be as high as 130 milligrams per day. Compare this value to the 3-6 mg recommended for daily intake by knowledgeable functional doctors. The FDA does not have a recommended daily allowance (RDA) for boron. Go figure. Jamaica has very little boron and interestingly has high incidences of arthritis in adults.

Boron intake in Turkey is the most well studied. There, certain water sources have about 30 milligrams of boron per liter. On average people consume two liters of water or 60 milligrams of boron. Interestingly, the citizens of Turkey have very low incidences of arthritis in contrast to Jamaica, where the estimated incidence is 70 percent. Contrast that to the United States where boron intake is <3 milligrams/day, on average, and the incidence of arthritis is around 20 percent. Based on population studies, the optimal intake of boron is between 10 and 30 milligrams per day.

Historically, boron natural spas have been used as therapeutic for arthritis. New Zealand is one country were spas known to be high in boron were noted as being able to help people overcome arthritis. Some of the hot springs contain substantial amounts of boron in the water.[i] Table 1 above provides estimates of boron intake and the incidence of arthritis is various regions.

Boron is not just about the parathyroid gland and calcium homeostasis. It also has a regulatory role in at least 26 enzymes including those involved in energy metabolism. Boron is also essential for plants including regulation of sugar transport. Boron, in nature, is what helps plants become sweeter. Did you ever bite into a carrot and it tasted like wood but another one was sweet? Boron levels in the soil may be the explanation for the difference. Additionally, boron improves the uptake of other nutrients by plants. It is involved in the growth of hairy roots, the little tentacles that extend into the