This is purely speculative.
Earlier we looked at more ‘known’ activity from Boron:
Having been taking a fairly high dose rate of Boron lately (to drive off some discomfort in a wrist that was making typing painful) I’ve also noticed an effect that is alluded to exist, but that I’d not noticed before, much. That is, I’m more mentally alert and active. Partly this has shown up as sleeping less. Sometimes only 4 hours, often 7 or under. Partly it’s just being less ‘dull’ less often. This got me thinking about “how”?
There is a very controversial assertion that Aluminum is involved in mental deficit. While the best evidence I’ve found is that it isn’t causal of any illness, in particular Alzheimer’s, and rather that the Aluminum accumulation in plaques is more symptom than cause, none the less, it accumulates. As there is no known metabolic use for Aluminum, the question of “why is it circulating at all?” is interesting, but not explored much.
Is a 19.5 MB document looking at Aluminum metabolism. While I’ve not read it all yet, the intro / abstract gives an idea of the field:
Literature regarding the biochemistry of aluminum and eight similar ions is reviewed. Close and hitherto unknown similarities were found. A hypothetical model is presented for the metabolism, based on documented direct observations of Al3+ and analogies from other ions. Main characteristics are low intestinal absorption, rapid urinary excretion, and slow tissue uptake, mostly in skeleton and reticuloendothelial cells. Intracellular Al3+ is probably first confined in the lysosomes but then slowly accumulates in the cell nucleus and chromatin. Large, long-lived cells, e.g., neurons, may be the most liable to this accumulation. In heterochromatin, Al3+ levels can be found comparable to those used in leather tannage. It is proposed that an accumulation may take place at a subcellular level without any significant increase in the corresponding tissue concentration. The possible effects of this accumulation are discussed. As Al3+ is neurotoxic, the brain metabolism is most interesting. The normal and the lethally toxic brain levels of Al3+ are well documented and differ only by a factor of 3-10. The normal brain uptake of Al3+ is estimated from data on intestinal uptake of Al3+ and brain uptake of radionuclides of similar ions administered intravenously. The uptake is very slow, 1 mg in 36 years, and is consistent with an assumption that Al3+ taken up by the brain cannot be eliminated and is therefore accumulated. The possibility that Al3+ may cause or contribute to some specific diseases, most of them related to aging, is discussed with the proposed metabolic picture in mind.
So we don’t absorb much, we excrete a lot, a little tiny bit of it gets ‘stuck’ in some subcellular structures. Sometimes in fairly high concentrations; and there’s the thought this might have something to do with aging.
Where they focus, is on atoms of similar size and charge. For example:
Among other “inert gas” ions, the titanium ion Ti4+ and the zirconium ion Zr4+ also resemble Al3″, as does the rarer hafnium ion. The current literature on the biochemistry and metabolism of Ti4+ is more limited than the corresponding literature concerning Zr4+. Therefore, the latter ion will primarily be discussed. Zr4+ has roughly the same high charge/radius ratio as Al3″ and Be , but Zr4+ is somewhat more acidic than Al3″, while Be2″ is somewhat more alkaline. In other respects as well (e.g., charge, radius, and coordination numbers) Al”3 is intermediately positioned between Be2+ and Zr4+.
I did a text search on that document and only found 2 references to “Boron”. One says that it’s not very important, the other briefly (very briefly) mentions how it has different electronegativity. The longest most complete reference says:
Boron is the first element in the same group of the periodic table as Al. However, boron only formally resembles Al and in its chemical properties is much more like the second element in the following group, silicon. In the same way, beryllium, the first element of the preceding group, is in many ways similar to Al. It is of special interest to observe that Be24 has the same high charge/ radius ratio as Al` (see Table 1), and the same electron negativity and solubility of the hydroxide. However, the lower charge and the normally lower coordination number of Be2+ are differences that should be reflected in the metabolism.
As much devoted to Be as to B, and mostly just dismissive. It does mention that B is in the same group as Al, then dismisses it. But does biology? There are many cases where things “in the same group” can substitute into biological reactions. It doesn’t work the same was as inorganic solvent based chemistry. Ion to ion isn’t as important as what the protein wrapper does and how it accepts or rejects ions. If we look at the Periodic Table, there are many ‘metabolic pairs’ in vertical groups:
The German view of things has an emphasis on ‘perfection’, but nature is not so perfect.
(I say this having had several German family and teachers in my life. I have strong memories of a German accented “perfect!” being frequently used…)
So lets look at this chart with a bit of ‘imperfection’ in mind, for metabolic systems. First up, in Group 1, Na / K on the left side. The ratio of those two is important for many cellular functions. Up a bit to Li and we get a bit of medicinal lift to the spirits. (Nature and biology seems to like the lighter ions ;-) As we go toward the bottom of the groups, things become very toxic.
In Group 2, we have Mg / Ca as a set. The Magnesium and Calcium metabolism is critical to life. Here, too, the right ratio matters. In cancer, we get a flood of Ca ions into the blood. An interesting ‘twist’ happens here, as we go down the chart. The first stop, Strontium, isn’t exactly evil…
The human body absorbs strontium as if it were calcium. Due to the chemical similarity of the elements, the stable forms of strontium might not pose a significant health threat — in fact, the levels found naturally may actually be beneficial (see below) – but the radioactive 90Sr can lead to various bone disorders and diseases, including bone cancer. The strontium unit is used in measuring radioactivity from absorbed 90Sr.
A recent in-vitro study conducted the NY College of Dental Sciences using strontium on osteoblasts showed marked improvement on bone-building osteoblasts.
The drug strontium ranelate, made by combining strontium with ranelic acid, was found to aid bone growth, increase bone density, and lessen vertebral, peripheral, and hip fractures. Women receiving the drug showed a 12.7% increase in bone density. Women receiving a placebo had a 1.6% decrease. Half the increase in bone density (measured by X-ray densitometry) is attributed to the higher atomic weight of Sr compared with calcium, whereas the other half a true increase in bone mass. Strontium ranelate is registered as a prescription drug in Europe and many countries worldwide. It must be prescribed by a doctor, must be delivered by a pharmacist, and requires strict medical supervision.
There is a long history of medical research regarding strontium’s benefits, beginning in the 1950s. Studies indicate a lack of undesirable side-effects. Several other salts of strontium such as strontium citrate and strontium carbonate are available in the United States under the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994, providing close to the recommended strontium content, about 680 milligrams per day, of strontium ranelate. Their long-term safety and efficacy have not been evaluated on humans in large-scale medical trials
So stay away from the radioactive forms, and it makes bones just like calcium, only stronger…
Unless you want to postulate that we have a hidden Strontium Metabolism Enzyme Series, the implication is that nature grabs “close enough” and tries to use it, running Strontium through the same metabolic pathways as Calcium.
The broad salmon colored block of the chart, the transition metals, has many in the top row that are ‘essential minerals’. Iron, copper, and zinc are the most obvious. There’s some evidence that others are essential too, in trace amounts. Could part of this be just that the “perfection” of Only One Mineral is wrong? That really we evolved to have an ‘average reaction’ based on the average mix of ions from sea water being picked up and moved around by similar enzymes?
As we drop down to the next levels, we get several medicinal effects. Gold used to treat arthritis, for example; BUT, we also get some very large toxicities. Those metals ARE being absorbed and “used”, but generally gumming up the works. Life really does prefer the lighter elements. Cd, Cadmium, is horridly toxic, but in a particularly enlightening way. It is absorbed and used in the same enzyme systems as zinc, but makes them behave very badly. Clearly the body is happy to try using Cd as though it were zinc, but it doesn’t work out well. I’m reminded of that NASA study that found a bacteria that did barely OK on lots of Arsenic and not so much Phosphorus, another vertical set. Normally, for us, Arsenic is toxic as it’s too heavy and the enzymes get screwed up. But Arsenic is over in Group 7 with: Nitrogen, above P, widely used in life too.
In Group 6, we have Carbon, the basis of life itself. Lesser known is that Si, just below Carbon looks to be a needed ‘trace element’, so also used (in small amounts and in poorly understood ways). Going further down that list, we reach Lead. Pb, Lead, is a known poison. In between those two ranges, Sn Tin is metabolized generally without issue in small amounts, but large exposures can cause sickness. Details here:
In Group 8, we have Oxygen as critical in large amounts. Sulphur is widely used in proteins and metabolism, but a bit less central than Oxygen. Selenium is a needed ‘trace element’. Then, further down, things again head into the land of Toxic.
In Group 9, the Halogens, we again have the pattern. Though just like with the other end, the alkali metals, the ‘useful’ part is shifted lower in the chart. In the middle salmon area, only the top element is really useful. As we move to both ends, the top element becomes less used and the useful bits drop lower in the series. In the Halogens, F Florine helps make teeth tougher, but isn’t really needed and in large doses is toxic (rather like Lithium, it can be a medicinal, but ‘has risks’). At Cl Chlorine, we need it for many things, but not the least of them is keeping the blood osmotic pressures right.
Chloride is one of the most important electrolytes in the blood. It helps keep the amount of fluid inside and outside of your cells in balance. It also helps maintain proper blood volume, blood pressure, and pH of your body fluids.
Just below it is Iodine, essential for thyroxin and proper thyroid function.
Even as we reach Bromine (this being an end of the chart so toxicity shifted down with utility) it isn’t bad. This folks claiming it interacts with the thyroid system. (Something I would expect from the general ‘similar ions substitute in the enzyme system’ thesis).
I have not found a cell receptor for Bromine (Br) to date, and at this time, bromine has not been classified as being essential to human health, however reduced growth, fertility, and life expectancy has been reported in some animals as a result of Hyperthyroidism secondary to dietary deficiency of bromide.
In humans and animals, Bromine – either as Sodium Bromide, or Potassium Bromide – has anti-seizure properties, and it is an effective trace mineral in the treatment of hyperthyroid conditions. Many marine plants, particularly kelp, are a rich source of bromine and iodine, so depending on their bromine to iodine ratio, and whether someone is hypothyroid or hyperthyroid, this can have a beneficial or unfavorable effect on thyroid functions when regularly consumed.
When reports of hypothyroidism cases surfaced as a result of certain cultures regularly consuming seaweed (such as Kelp), some researchers believed the high iodine content in those marine plants to be the reason. However, it was most likely the bromine content, or a high bromine / iodine ratio in the plants compared to those of other regions, or that these same people possibly also consumed higher amounts of “goitrogenic” vegetables such as lima beans, cassava, cabbage, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, which can result in depressed iodine / thyroid functions. On average, most varieties of kelp tend to increase thyroid functions.
Those folks are ‘pushing pills’ so probably needs to be taken ‘with a pinch of salt’… but still, we again have the RATIO of a vertical set of ions as having an effect.
Which brings us to Group 5.
Right next to the ‘transition metals’, so likely ‘only the top one’ matters. But also right next to Carbon / Silicon (Where Si is likely important, but only barely). Very light weight, like C / Si so maybe a bit more like them than the transition metals, maybe.
We know that Boron matters. Exactly how much is being worked out. It is helpful in bones, immunity modulation, and there is evidence (both in the literature and in my personal experience) that it “clarifies the mind” and “stimulates” a little bit. (Not like “speed” or even like a double espresso, but more like a nice nap then a brisk walk.)
The implication here is that Boron Matters and the body has systems to use it. Looking around the rest of the period chart, we see that just below ‘what matters’ is often something that ‘comes along for the ride’ and sometimes is toxic. IMHO, Aluminum is in the same camp; but mostly not very toxic. (Only in large doses, often inhaled fumes, does it seem to do much.)
Aluminum is ubiquitous in drinking water and in just about every rock formation on the planet to some degree. We have clearly evolved to deal with having some of it floating around. Lessened absorption, greater excretion.
But when deprived of one nutrient, the metabolism tries to substitute what it can. Strontium in bones. Bromine in the thyroid. Cadmium in Zinc enzymes. Is Aluminum really going to be the exception to the rule?
So my thesis is a simple one:
In strong Boron Deficit, the body may substitute Aluminum in some of those metabolic pathways. This is “not good”, and we get Aluminum accumulation in the places where things clog up. Adding sufficient Boron lets those pathways be properly serviced and Aluminum will not be substituted (or will be substituted at much lower levels). Then things will work better.
Post Hypo Thesis
I have no proof. I have no investigation. I have nothing. Just a “Dig Here!” idea.
If anyone can make use of it, a footnote in the paper would be appreciated…
But it does “fit the known facts”.
IMHO, any investigation of Boron or Aluminum metabolism ought to include measuring and assay of the other element. Often in living systems it is the ratio of two ions in the vertical group that matters. Could full Boron supplementation displace misplaced Aluminum from intracellular accumulations? From Alzheimer’s Disease plaques? Would it matter if it did? All interesting things someone looking for a thesis might pursue.
For me, I know that I’m healthier, stronger, more energetic, and even think a little more ‘brightly’ with a daily dose of a bit of Boron. Could it be like a ‘daily dose of a little tobacco’ that has similar effects on folks? (Other than the healthier part ;-) Certainly. “The poison is in the dose”, though. And the LD-50 of Borax is a couple of orders of magnitude above my ‘dose’. Though the dose I’m taking is more than the 3 mg of Boron recommended. Closer to 1/10 th gram of borax every couple of days than to a mg range.
So that’s my Boron-Aluminum Hypothesis. Aluminum is in that ‘not quite a toxin’ range just below an ion that is used by the metabolism (though in ways we’ve not sorted out yet). It gets ‘substituted’ in small degree when Boron is too low, but doesn’t work right.
Putting Boron levels up, makes things work ‘more right’ again.
If I had a nice research grant and a lab, I’d investigate it further (and torture a few dozen rats ;-) but that will have to be left to others…
(Much to the relief of rodents in California ;-)