Magazine article Science News

Boosting Boron Could Be Healthful. (Science News of the Week)

Magazine article Science News

Boosting Boron Could Be Healthful. (Science News of the Week)

Article excerpt

It's hard to ignore the body's need for major nutrients--proteins, vitamins, and even fats--but most people give no thought to the diet's large cast of bit players. These include trace minerals, such as boron. Last week, scientists reported why U.S. diets tend to have relatively little boron and described health risks--including cancer--that may stem from overlooking this micronutrient.

Several years ago, Charlene J. Rainey of Food Research in Costa Mesa, Calif., conducted a six-nation comparison of dietary boron for the World Health Organization. Consuming a little over 1 milligram per day, U.S. adults took in 7 to 10 percent less boron, on average, than did people in Britain and Egypt and between 32 and 41 percent less than Germans, Kenyans, and Mexicans did.

Zuo-Fen Zhang of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles was curious about whether the low U.S. boron intake might have health effects. He decided to mine data collected from thousands of men and women during a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Zhang's team grouped participants according to the amount of boron in their diets. Key to discerning that amount, explains team member Curtis D. Eckhert of UCLA, was Rainey's new database on boron in foods. The team applied it to what each NHANES participant had eaten over a 24-hour period.

What "unexpectedly popped out" of the analysis, Eckhert says, was a finding that risk of prostate cancer falls as boron intake climbs.

By comparing the diets of 7,651 older men without prostate cancer with the diets of 76 men who had the disease, a strong dose-response trend emerged, Zhang reported last week in Orlando, Fla., at Experimental Biology 2001. The prostate cancer risk for men eating the most boron, at least 1.8 mg/day, was less than a third that of men eating under 0. …

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