Are you spending more time looking for your lost keys or fighting off drowsiness? Mental blips are normal, but it’s important to remember that cognitive function is closely tied to our diet, and that the quality of our diet is rooted in the quality of crops.
Most people are aware of the importance of vitamins like B, C, and D along with minerals like calcium to be healthy. However, it’s less well known that micronutrients including boron affect brain health and function.
In the 1990s, studies by the US Department of Agriculture strongly suggested a positive relationship between boron intake and cognitive function
. Specifically, the studies showed that adults on a low-boron diet for a relatively short period of time (ranging from six to 10 weeks) demonstrated decreased brain activity compared to high boron intake.
The participants with low boron intake demonstrated poorer performance on tasks that measured short-term memory, perception, and attention as well as decreased manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. The data suggest that boron is an important nutrient for human brain function and cognitive performance.
Micronutrient Deficiency Is Prevalent Around the World
Unfortunately, micronutrient deficiency is a growing, global trend.
As the world’s population boomed in the 20th
century, food systems focused on growing high volumes of cereal grains to feed more people but paid less attention to micronutrient quality and diversity. The increased production helped prevent famines but it has also led to increased micronutrient malnutrition, especially among women, infants, and children in developing countries. As early as the 1990s, research from the U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory at Cornell University indicated that about 40% of the global population is affected by micronutrient malnutrition
How to Address Boron Deficiency
As is the case for most nutrients, research suggests that the best way to meet your boron nutritional needs is by eating fruits, vegetables, and legumes instead of taking a supplement.
Whole foods deliver a wide array of micronutrients as well as other healthful substances like fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Relying on supplements can make it harder to achieve the right balance of nutrients and optimal wellbeing. (Note that doctors do recommend supplements in some cases, such as folic acid for pregnant women or B-12 for older adults.)
The recommendation for boron in human diets is small; the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set an upper limit of 20 mg of boron per day for adults over age 18. Additionally, studies suggest that boron’s beneficial effects are evident at doses of 3 mg per day of boron or higher. Together, this suggests that adults over 18 should eat at least 3 mg of boron per day but no more than 20 mg.
A chemical analysis of boron content in foods
published in the Open Mineral Processing Journal
found that the following foods contained the highest amounts of boron:
- Avocados (1.43 mg per 100 g)
- Peanut butter (0.59 mg per 100 g)
- Peanuts, dry (0.58 mg per 100 g)
- Prune juice (0.56 mg per 100 g)
- Chocolate powder (0.43 mg per 100 g)
- Wine (0.36 g per 100 g)
To address micronutrient deficiencies on a regional or global scale, it’s important to examine the health of our soils and plants. If plants don’t get enough micronutrients, neither will the people who consume them.
Boron deficiency in plants is widespread and has been reported in every state east of the Mississippi River as well as in many states to the west. In general, boron deficiency is especially prevalent in high-rainfall regions, in irrigated sandy soils, and in soils with low organic matter content.
However, boron deficiency in crops is also fairly easy to detect, correct, and maintain with regular soil and plant testing. Contact a crop consultant to arrange for soil testing and to create a boron supplementation plan for your fields.