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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Importance of Boron Nutrition for Brain and Psychological Function

Author
item Penland, James

Submitted to: Biological Trace Element Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 10, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Recent studies of bone, mineral and lipid metabolism, energy utilization, and immune function suggest that the element boron may be an essential nutrient for animals and humans. This report reviews several studies conducted in our laboratory that address the importance of boron for brain and psychological function. An initial study with mature rats found that adding small amounts of boron to a very low boron diet changed brain electrical activity in a manner consistent with increased activation. Three human studies followed that evaluated the effects of dietary boron on brain electrical activity and on performance of several mental and motor tasks. Two studies found that feeding a very low boron diet resulted in brain electrical activity changes consistent with deceased brain activation and similar to those observed in general malnutrition and lead toxicity. Very low boron intakes were also associated with poorer performance on tasks of motor speed and dexterity, attention and short-ter memory; the latter two tasks showed poorer performance in all three studies. A fifth study found no support for reports that boron supplementation relieves menopausal symptoms. Possible biological mechanisms by which changes in boron intake and status might cause the observed effects in brain and psychological function are discussed. Findings indicate that boron is an important nutrient for brain and psychological function in humans.

Technical Abstract: Boron nutriture has been related to bone, mineral and lipid metabolism, energy utilization, and immune function. As evidence accumulates that boron is essential for humans, it is important to consider possible relationships between boron nutriture and brain and psychological function. Five studies conducted in our laboratory are reviewed. Assessments of brain electrical activity in both animals and humans found that boron deprivation results in decreased brain electrical activity similar to that observed in non-specific malnutrition. Assessments of cognitive and psychomotor function in humans found that boron deprivation results in poorer performance on tasks of motor speed and dexterity, attention and short-term memory. However, little support was found for anecdotal reports that supplementation with physiologic amounts of boron helps alleviate the somatic and psychological symptoms of menopause. Parallels between nutritional and toxicological effects of boron on brain and psychological function are presented, and possible biological mechanisms for dietary effects are reviewed. Findings support the hypothesis that boron nutriture is important for brain and psychological function in humans.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014
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