Is Food Medicine?
Often we hear the great saying by Hippocrates; "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" and it conjures up a sense of freedom and empowerment to heal our
ailments with wise food choices. This is the very essence of nutritional medicine. While
often true we have to clearly study when food can be medicine and where the line crosses when we need pharmaceutical levels of nutrients or even medications to heal our ailments.
As an activity I scrolled Instagram one day and saw many posts by various degrees of health practitioners, coaches, and enthusiasts claiming to eat more boron-rich foods as a way to boost testosterone, heal your bones, and reduce inflammation. Many touted that all you need to do is eat boron rich foods and you will improve in these areas of life. Is that even true? Are they referring to people with no health problems? What if you have problems in these areas; can you just eat boron rich foods and fix your problems?
It is not so clear.
Here is my process when I answer this question.
Lets take a look at Boron in more detail.
Boron Consumption Benefits and Mechanisms of Action: Boron can increase free testosterone, can improve bone strength. Can increase estrogen. Possibly can alleviate osteoarthritic inflammation. Possibly can increase bone strength in some circumstances. The mechanism is unknown; Some propose it works on the aromatase enzyme.
Boron consumption Draw backs and concerns: generally regarded as safe the tolerable upper limit for adults is 20 mg daily. It has been reported (no cited case studies) that oral doses of 5-6 g Boron (5,000-6,000 mg) in infants or 15-20 g in adults (15,000-20,000 mg) causes acute death in humans due to boron toxicity.
Boron Consumption Availability: widely available and affordable in food and affordable supplements
Dosage and studies: in most circles therapeutic doses would be 10 mg daily coming from food. Supplementation ranges from 3-10 mg daily in studies.
a. Female(N of 12 ) 3 mg of Boron in addition to a Boron controlled deficiency state (0.25 mg for 119 days) was able to increase testosterone and estrogen in postmenopausal women. Study link
b. N of 6 study. 10 mg Boron for 6 days was able to reduce estrogen without influencing total androgen status, but increasing free testosterone (possibly via a reduction in SHBG) in 6 apparently healthy average male adults. Study link
Food sources of Boron:
Raisins, 4.51 mg of Boron/ 100 g. The recognized serving of raisins is about 1/4 cup or 43 grams / There is 1.9 mg of Boron per servings of raisins.
Avocado 1.22 mg of Boron/100 g . The recognized serving of avocado is 1/3 of an avocado or 50 grams. There is .61 mg of Boron per serving of avocado.
Almonds, 2.82 mg of Boron/ 100 g. A serving of almonds is about which equals 1 ounce or 14 grams. Which is about ¼ cup or about 1 handful or about 23 almonds There is .39 mg of Boron per serving of almonds.
Hazelnuts, 2.77 mg of Boron/ 100 g. A serving of hazelnuts is one ounce or 28 grams which is about 21 hazelnuts. There is .77mg of Boron per serving of hazelnuts
Dried Apricots, 2.11 mg of Boron/ 100 g. on serving of dried apricots is about 65 grams. which is about a ½ cup or 8 dried halves of apricots. There 1.3 mg of Boron per serving of dried apricots
Peanut Butter, 1.92 mg of Boron/ 100 g. I serving of peanut butter is 2 tablespoons or 32 grams of peanut butter I serving of peanut butter provides about .61mg of Boron
Brazil Nuts, 1.72 mg of Boron/100 g. or .34 mg of Boron per serving
Supplement Sources and Forms
Usually given in 1 mg to 3 mg of increments of Boron. Cost is usually between 2 cents and 5 cents a dosage.
So is food medicine in the case of Boron?
The answer is maybe. If you are a man and have slightly low free testosterone and/or are peri-menopausal women with gradually decreasing estrogen and testosterone; it may help to try and reach to increase dietary consumption of Boron in the amounts 3 mg per day . A 1/2 organic avocado a day, a serving of organic raisins/day, and a serving of almonds just about gets you to the goal. You should measure your progress after trying this for 3 months.
However if you are fully sliding down the slope with osteoporosis, andropause, or menopause it might be important to supplement or use medication options.
Case in point, these claims the "food is medicine" needs to be put in context in every single case. Exhausting as it might be to go through this study; it can be highly beneficial. I believe food is the best preventative medicine and can also the best intervention when the problem just starts to appear.