Life Extension Magazine August 2006
All About Supplements
By Dan Harvey
Standard medical advice for people with osteoporosis is to take a calcium supplement with vitamin D, and often a bisphosphonate drug such as Fosamax® or Actonel®. Even with this advice, incidences of osteoporosis are soaring. Aging adults continue to suffer lethal fractures and diminished bone strength. Unfortunately, standard medical advice alone might not be sufficient to stem the devastating erosion of bone mass that accompanies normal aging.
In treating osteoporosis, many doctors have overlooked one of the most critical components for supporting healthy bone matrix: the trace mineral boron. Without boron, the absorption of calcium can be limited and often underutilized.1 Researchers have concluded that boron is an essential factor in facilitating the bone-building effects of key nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Numerous studies demonstrate boron is critical to maintaining and improving one’s bone health.1 Healthy bones, however, are just the beginning of the boron story.
In this article, we examine boron’s many health-promoting effects, which also include relieving joint pain associated with arthritis, reducing the risk of prostate cancer, preserving cognitive function, and relieving oxidative stress. Further, we examine how you can ensure that you are benefiting from the most advanced, bioavailable boron formulation available today.
Boron: An Often-Deficient Mineral
Boron is a trace mineral that is essential to plant growth and in turn finds its way into the human diet. Boron is present in plant foods such as fruits (especially plums, grapes, and avocados), vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
Despite its availability in nature, ingesting adequate amounts of boron can be difficult. For one thing, boron levels in plant foods are rather low.2 Moreover, modern dietary habits almost ensure boron deficiency, as many people do not eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables.
In the United States, estimated daily boron intake ranges from 0.5 mg to 3 mg, with 1 mg being average. Although there is no recommended dietary allowance for boron, evidence places the optimal daily boron intake at 2-3 mg daily (and higher).3 Ensuring optimal boron intake becomes increasingly important as we age, especially in light of boron’s critical role in safeguarding bone health. Further compounding the dangers of insufficient boron intake is that even well-informed adults who take boron supplements may not be getting the form of boron that supports optimal health and well-being.
A Superior Form of Boron
Boron’s demonstrated ability to strengthen bones and confer other important health benefits prompted scientists to seek out the most effective, bioavailable form of this critical element.
In researching various boron compounds, scientists discovered a plant form of boron known as calcium fructoborate, which is a complex of calcium, fructose, and boron found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and other foods.2 This innovative form of boron is not only safe and well tolerated, but has been shown to be much more bioavailable than other commercial forms of boron.2
This novel form of boron—known as FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™—is clearly the most advanced boron compound available today. One of the primary benefits of FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ is that it is readily absorbed intact from the gastrointestinal tract and transported in the body as fructoborate, where it demonstrates high biological availability.2 FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ is also highly stable, which enables it to remain in a usable form much longer in the body.2-5
Boron Is Essential to Bone Health
Ensuring healthy bones is fundamental to any anti-aging program, since weak bones can lead to disabling and even life-threatening bone fractures. Boron plays an integral part in bone metabolism, as it supports the functions of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, all of which are crucial to promoting dense, healthy bone tissue.6-9
In an important study of postmenopausal women who were not on estrogen replacement therapy, scientists examined boron’s effect on various measures of bone health. The subjects consumed a boron-deficient diet for 119 days, followed by 48 days of boron supplementation. On the boron-depleted diet, the women demonstrated increased urinary loss of both calcium and magnesium. On the boron-supplemented diet, however, they showed less urinary excretion of calcium and magnesium, as well as increased levels of two hormones associated with healthy bone mass.8 These findings indicate that adequate boron intake is essential to preserving the body’s stores of bone-building calcium and magnesium.
The researchers also studied the women during periods of both adequate magnesium intake and magnesium deficiency. Here, too, boron helped to preserve essential stores of calcium and magnesium in the body. While the magnesium-depleted diet was associated with increased loss of urinary calcium, boron supplementation significantly reduced urinary loss of both calcium and magnesium. The researchers observed that boron deprivation produced changes similar to those seen in osteoporosis, and that adequate boron status helped prevent calcium loss and bone demineralization in postmenopausal women.8 Boron thus has important applications in helping women preserve bone mass and prevent osteoporosis following menopause.
Boron may likewise help to alleviate the detrimental effects of vitamin D deficiency on calcium metabolism. Vitamin D is crucial to bone health because it helps to support calcium absorption. One study showed that when animals were fed a diet deficient in vitamin D, increasing dietary boron intake helped support optimal calcium absorption. This finding indicates an additional role for boron in promoting optimal mineral balance and ensuring healthy calcium utilization.9
Clinical studies demonstrate that FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ is particularly effective in supporting healthy bones. One study confirmed the beneficial effects of FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ on vitamin D status, a crucial contributor to bone health.2 In a pilot clinical study, 11 vitamin D-deficient patients were given 6 mg of boron from FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ for 60 days. Ten of the 11 patients experienced an average 24% increase in serum vitamin D level, indicating that supplementation with FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ may help optimize calcium metabolism and bone density.
Another study from the University of Wisconsin examined the effects of FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ on vitamin D-deficient rats, which serve as a research model for studying osteoporosis treatments. After eight weeks of treatment with FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™, the rats’ bone mineral content increased by 5.8% compared to non-supplemented control animals. This finding lends additional weight to the beneficial role of FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ in increasing bone mineral density.2
Remarkably, despite boron’s critical importance in maintaining bone health, some of the leading bone health products on the market—especially those containing calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium—do not include any form of boron! Furthermore, the few products that do include forms of boron that are not optimally absorbed. The absence of boron in bone health supplements may contribute to the epidemic of low bone mass and osteoporosis that afflicts so many aging adults, even those who use commercial supplements.
Boron Alleviates Osteoarthritis Pain
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease, a source of daily pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion for millions of Americans. Emerging research indicates that, in addition to preserving bone health, boron may help relieve the debilitating symptoms of osteoarthritis.10
In one study involving subjects with osteoarthritis, 50% of the patients who received a daily supplement of 6 mg of boron noted less pain from movement, while only 10% of subjects given a placebo experienced similar improvement.11 As for the cause of this reduced pain, some studies indicate that boron-related biochemicals may decrease the production of pain-provoking inflammatory mediators.12-14
In another study, researchers observed that bones adjacent to joints with osteoarthritis tend to be less mineralized and have significantly lower concentrations of boron than do healthy bones. This finding suggests that low boron status may be associated with painful osteoarthritis, and again indicates an important role for boron in promoting healthy joint structure and function.15
Examining the relationship between boron intake and osteoarthritis prevalence around the world, researchers have uncovered epidemiological evidence demonstrating that in areas where boron intake is 1 mg or less per day, the estimated incidence of arthritis ranges from 20% to 70%. Conversely, in areas of the world where boron intake is usually 3-10 mg per day, the estimated incidence of arthritis is dramatically lower, ranging from zero to just 10%. This remarkable finding is compelling evidence that abundant intake of dietary boron may confer powerful protection against the development of osteoarthritis.16
Clinical studies demonstrate that FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ is especially effective in managing the pain of osteoarthritis. An open-label pilot study conducted at the University of Novi Sad in Yugoslavia examined subjects with mild to severe osteoarthritis of the knees or hips, and utilized an osteoarthritis index that serves as a reliable tool for clinically evaluating new treatment agents. All patients completed the osteoarthritis questionnaire at the study’s onset and at four and eight weeks. The subjects were divided into two groups: those with mild or moderate osteoarthritis and those with severe osteoarthritis. The first group received 6 mg of boron from FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ once a day for eight weeks, while the second received the same dose twice a day for eight weeks. Reductions in joint pain, stiffness, and inflexibility were reported by 79% of subjects in the first group and 59% of those in the second group.2 These important findings suggest that FruiteX B® OsteoBoron™ can help relieve mild to moderate arthritis pain, without the aid of pharmaceutical therapy.