Manipulating the boron content of a diet leads to a wide number of metabolic responses, which is testament to the potential importance of boron in human nutrition. Early studies reported increased levels of steroid hormones, testosterone, and estra-diol in animals supplemented with boron. Further studies suggest that boron has a regulatory role in the metabolism of other minerals such as calcium and may affect bone metabolism. In a comparative way the role of boron is well established in vascular plants, diatoms, and marine algal flagellates. Zebra fish deprived of boron tend to suffer developmental defects. These data have prompted investigations into the biological functions of boron in higher vertebrates. To date, however, few studies have supported boron's essential role in vertebrates. In a comparison to Zebra fish, pregnant rats fed one-fiftieth the level of boron as control rats exhibited no impairment in fetal growth or development. Fewer two-cell embryos from the deficient rats, however, reached the blastocyst stage when cultured in vitro, suggesting boron deprivation did have an impact at a very early stage of development. Perhaps the strongest holdup to accepting boron as essential is the failure to define and link a specific organoboron compound with a physiological function. A report of boron associated with a naturally occurring antibiotic is an exception. The data, however, tend to support the notion that boron complexes with biological components are too unstable to be isolated and studied. This clearly has put a damper on the forward thrust of establishing boron's precise metabolic function.
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