Boron (B) is an essential trace element for plants and its interrelationship with mineral and bone metabolism and endocrine function in humans has been proposed. Relatively little is known about the occurrence of B in the food chain and hence a biomarker which reflects its intake is required. Two studies were carried out to quantify the urinary B concentration of subjects consuming their habitual diet and the effect of supplementation. In addition, the effect of supplementation on plasma lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations and susceptibility to oxidation and plasma steroid hormones were determined. Boron excretion, obtained on two different occasions from 18 healthy male subjects, was found to be in the range 0.35-3.53 mg/day, with no significant difference between the two occasions. Supplementation with 10 mg B/d for 4 wk resulted in 84% of the supplemented dose being recovered in the urine. Plasma estradiol concentrations increased significantly as a result of supplementation (51.9 +/- 21.4 to 73.9 +/- 22.2 pmol/L; p < 0.004) and there was a trend for plasma testosterone levels to be increased. However, there was no difference in plasma lipids or the oxidizability of low-density lipoprotein. Our studies suggest that the absorption efficiency of B is very high and estimation of the urinary B concentration may provide a useful reflection of B intake. In addition, the elevation of endogenous estrogen as a result of supplementation suggests a protective role for B in atherosclerosis.