We live in a complicated age when it comes to finding information. That’s one of the reasons I take the writing of these articles so seriously. It’s important to find and isolate that actual data from clinical trials and hospital reports–to determine if anyone has actually found proof for a supplement’s benefits–or its harms.
Putting information into context is also important. Let’s look at Low Testosterone (LT) in men, for example. If we’re to believe the ads on TV, LT is responsible for everything from gaining weight to our lawn mower not working. Looked at another way, 2% of men have LT–or 8% of men over 50. Sounds low. Now for the context–that’s over 3,000,000 men, at the lowest estimate.
And that only accounts for men with diagnosable LT; leaving out those of us who may have LT, but not to medically perilous levels.
With those sorts of numbers, it’s easy to see why so many supplements claim to have the answer to LT–and why so many scientific studies have been conducted to find answers. In this article, I’ll look at one Boron, one of the most common male supplement ingredients, to see if there’s any real effect on testosterone–good or bad.
✲ Some limited studies of men and women show that modest boron supplementation is associated with testosterone increases.
✲ However, Boron is listed by European agencies as a possible toxin, and studies of laboratory animals show testicular atrophy after ingestion.
✲ Human studies, though, have shown no such toxicity in humans.
✲ The Boron-Testosterone effect seems limited to small doses.
Refuting Past, Bad Research
Boron is a precarious element, used in the hardening of steels and the tempering of semiconductors in electronics. The earliest research of it found that stunted plants had boron-deficiency, while plants literally classified with gigantism had boron abundance.
The first modern trials of boron in mammals took place over forty years ago–but their science is still held up as “evidence” that boron is toxic. That’s because they found that laboratory rats given the mineral had atrophied testes, lowered testosterone, and complete sperm depletion. But this study, and a later one parroting those results fifteen years later, were using levels of Boron higher than found in humans who drink the water from Boron mines.
An experiment closer to our times used more realistic testing parameters, using Boron levels proportional to the rat’s weight, and found no toxicity.
The study I mentioned from men who have worked in Boron mines found absolutely no difference in men at even high exposure sites to healthy parameters for testicular and testosterone health.
I point this research out because even institutions like European health authorities can be stuck in the past–the past of bad research. It’s true that absurdly high levels of Boron can be toxic–but unless a person ingests roughly 13,000 mg of boron, they should be safe.
Research Showing a Benefit
Following the conflicting findings of scientists who poisoned rats with Boron and other scientists who found those levels exceeded rational parameters, a few researchers decided to find the middle ground.
One team in the recent years found that direct Boron supplementation, in modest levels, not only increased the levels of testosterone in human men, but it also boosted the levels of testosterone-adjacent compounds, such as Vitamin D and Dihydrotestosterone.
One note, in reference to earlier studies, these men took only 10 mg of Boron everyday–compared to over 60 mg for a poor lab rat in the toxic studies. The researchers used such a low dose noting the uniquely quick bioavailability of Boron. Humans absorb it and use it very quickly.
Another study I found, from the time period when Boron was still thought to be toxic in men, found that Boron supplementation in postmenopausal women found that only 3 mg a day elevated testosterone levels in those participants. It remains to other articles to speculate on why a study of women has not been included in the general literature on testosterone and Boron, but this article took some digging.
No matter the surrounding circumstances, the link is clear–low-dose Boron supplementation is linked directly with testosterone increases.
Now, this study and another study on healthy men found that the hormone estradiol increased as well as testosterone. Estradiol, in the past, was thought to be only a female sex hormone, but modern science has reexamined it, and found that it is an essential element for male sexual health and the expression of testosterone.
Finally, we’ll look to a fact sheet used by doctors and other scientific researchers. The National Institutes of Health has determined that Boron plays an important, beneficial role in the production of all sex hormones. This means that yes, there may be increases in the estradiol, but also in testosterone, because many hormones play off the same protein and enzyme triggers.
Glancing back in time can give us important insight into how a compound functions within the body. Even those data that showed toxicity in rats at extreme levels of Boron do show us that Boron has an effect on hormone levels and functions. Taking that effect, latter researchers were able to determine that the harmful side of the loop can be avoided, leaving only the benefits, if the Boron levels are attenuated.
Finding research that doesn’t, on the surface, support a claim can be helpful in not only leading further research, but it also helps the prudent researchers. Other articles, written by less careful authors, may claim that Boron is toxic, and that’s why I included those very studies–so that readers can see how erroneously those data were derived, and what more studious research has borne out.