Boron is an essential element, known for its capability of enhancing the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous by the body for maintaining healthy and strong bones. Observations from numerous epidemiologic and controlled animal and human experiments, have confirmed that boron is a safe and an effective way of alleviating arthritic pain and inflammation.
The Food and Drug Administration admits that the usage of analgesics like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), mainly used for treating rheumatoid arthritis have been the leading cause for around 2,00,000 cases of gastric bleeding each year, out of which approximately 2,000 die each year. Hence, using mineral nutrients like boron for preventing and treating arthritic joint pains can serve as a better alternative, without causing any severe side effects.
Scientific Evidence Supporting the Role of Boron in Treating Arthritis
The nutritional value of boron has been under investigation since almost 1989, leading to the collection of a substantial amount of data that all point towards the benefits of boron in alleviating symptoms associated with arthritis.
The relationship between the daily consumption of boron and the incidence of arthritis was established on the basis of epidemiological evidence that has shown that the disease is less prevalent in countries where the soil content of boron or the consumption of boron is high.
This has been exemplified by the fact that Israel, a country where people consume an average of 10mgs of boron per day, is known to have the least incidence (0.7% of its population) of arthritis in the world. On the other hand, countries like Jamaica, U.S, U.K, Australia, etc., which consume 0.5-2 mg of boron per day, has seen 20-70% of its population being affected by arthritis every year.
Other evidences like lower levels of boron in femur, bones, heads and synovial fluid in arthritis patients when compared to people without this disorder; bones of patients using boron supplements being much harder to cut than those of patients not using these supplements and in vivo experiments conducted both on animals and arthritic patients showed that 50% of the subjects receiving 6 mg boron/day supplement, experienced a significant reduction in arthritic joint pain.
How Does Boron Help Treat Arthritis
Our body needs boron to synthesize estrogen, vitamin D, and other steroid hormones and also protects them from breaking down rapidly. The Food Standards Agency in the U.K have stated that boron is capable of interacting with glucose, fats, estrogen and with nutrients like calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and copper, thus contributing to bone density and joint health.
Scientists, who discovered the boron/calcium/estrogen connection, suggest that boron could play a crucial role in the addition of the hydroxyl (OH) group to sex hormones like estrogen and vitamin D that determines the biological activity of these hormones, thus, aiding in a better absorption of calcium from the food that we eat.
Vitamin D that we obtain from our dietary supplementation is not fully activated, until two hydroxyl groups are added to it in the liver and kidney, with the help of boron, thus, converting it into an active form. Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disorder is caused by the over aging of collagen fibers that fail to repair themselves, due to lack of energy-rich compounds like ATP within the cells.
Boron, being a membrane catalyst, allows various ions, particularly phosphates to pass through the cell membrane, thereby, supporting the synthesis of ATP and leading to an efficient collagen fiber and cartilage repair in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis respectively.
In addition, anti-inflammatory actions have also been attributed to boron, thus making it an effective way of treating arthritis. It plays a crucial role in integrating calcium into the cartilage and bones, thereby, alleviating the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. The process of aging is more or less associated with weakening of the bones that become increasingly porous. This aging effect in both arthritic and non-arthritic patients can be prevented by adequate consumption of boron.
Dietary Sources of Boron
The lack of dietary boron has been found to enhance the severity and incidence of arthritis. Traces of boron can be found inside the human body, a major portion of which gets deposited directly on the bones and not in the blood. Most of it is excreted in the urine, bile and sweat, thus, making it essential to increase boron intake through dietary changes.
It occurs naturally in all foods produced from plants like green vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts. Foods particularly rich in boron include soya, apples, pears, prunes, almonds, peanuts, pecans, grapes, raisins, avocado, dates, hazelnuts, cereals, honey and wine. However, these foods must be organically grown, since soluble chemical fertilizers can reduce the uptake of boron by the plants.
Hence, a good apple can have 20 mg boron, while an organically grown apple can have as little as 1 mg boron. Since boron cannot readily accumulate within the tissues of animals, meat and dairy products are poor sources of this mineral. Also, processed foods, freezing, canning and discarding the water in which food is cooked can reduce the content of boron in the food.
Based on animal experiments, the human requirement for boron has been found to be nearly 1 to 2 mg per day. However, with aging, the requirement for preventing arthritis increases and hence, the Rheumatoid Disease Foundation has suggested a daily intake of 5-6 mg for the treatment of arthritis. The intake of about three boron tablets a day has also been shown to alleviate the pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with arthritis, in about one to three months.
Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, experience an early aggravation of joint pain while using these tablets, a condition termed as Herxheimer reaction. However, it should be considered as a good sign, (since the remedy is working) and if the patients continue to persevere, the pain and the swelling will subside in about two to three weeks.
Excess of boron can harm both plants and humans by inhibiting the activities of certain enzymes, essential for carrying out metabolism. Researchers have found that the lowest reported lethal dose of boron is about 45 gr. (1.6 ounce) for an adult and 2 gr. (0.07 ounces) for an infant.
Exceeding this dosage can lead to side effects like nausea, vomiting, skin rashes and fatigue. Hence, one should always consult a doctor, prior to using boron as a treatment for arthritis.