Agricultural practices affect arthritis

Nutr Health. 1991;7(2):89-100. doi: 10.1177/026010609100700204.


It has been suggested that boron deficiency in food may be a cause of some arthritis (Newnham 1979). Epidemiological studies were done to try to ascertain why some countries have more or less arthritis than other countries. Jamaica, Mauritius, Fiji and Israel were visited with a view to ascertaining the boron levels of locally consumed food as it was suspected that excessive use of soluble chemical fertilizers had damaged the soils of the sugar producing lands. Food grown on these soils were found to have low boron levels. By contrast the foods consumed in Israel had high boron concentrations associated with a low incidence of arthritis. South African work has shown that people who eat mostly maize have more arthritis when eating processed maize grown with fertilizer. Brief reference is made to the role of boron in human diets. There are bound to be geographical differences in dietary boron, but even in the USA levels have dropped considerably in 50 years. Arthritis is increasing, especially juvenile arthritis. The increased use of fertilizers and genetic selection of plants has led to a wide range of changes in the quality of foodstuffs and their nutrient content. The identification of the parallel loss of boron may reflect vital changes in trace elements and other nutrients.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods
  • Arthritis / epidemiology*
  • Arthritis / etiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Boron / deficiency*
  • Fertilizers / adverse effects*
  • Fiji / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Jamaica / epidemiology
  • Mauritius / epidemiology
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Zea mays / analysis


  • Fertilizers
  • Boron