Many of us sang the skeleton song as children. It was a fun way to learn the major parts of the body. But, it didn’t tell us the whole story.
Our skeletal system does much more than support our muscles and connect our joints. It plays a role in metabolism, memory, and muscle health.
If you’re like most people, when you think of bones, you picture dried bones whitened by the sun. But your bone tissue is alive, active, and in a constant state of change. When new bone forms, the osteoblasts, specialized bone cells that reproduce and rebuild bone, produce osteocalcin. Research shows this substance is a catalyst for healthy metabolism, better memory, and stronger muscles.
Our bones may be key players in the fight against metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Mathieu Ferron, a researcher at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) and professor at Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine, studied osteocalcin for 10 years. His findings are fascinating.
According to a 2015 review published in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders our bones do more than protect our vital organs and support our muscles. Researchers unexpectedly discovered that our bones have an endocrine-like function. An osteoblast protein called osteocalcin acts as a hormone.
Ferron’s team found bone tissue stores osteocalcin until it combines with the enzyme, furin. Furin instigates the release of osteocalcin into the bloodstream where it increases insulin production and regulates blood sugar levels. When furin is not present, osteocalcin decreases insulin production and blood glucose levels rise.
The results of the research may lead to new treatments for diabetes.
Bodybuilding may start in the bones.
Osteocalcin enhances muscle performance.
A separate study featured in the Cell Metabolism Journal showed osteocalcin reversed age-related muscle decline in mice.
Gerard Karsenty, a geneticist at the Columbia University Medical Center and senior author on the study, reported osteocalcin influences muscle performance. During his investigation, Karsenty founding increasing the osteocalcin levels in older mice allowed them to perform with the same level of strength and endurance as younger animals.
This early research suggests people can develop strong muscles by building strong bones. This finding also supports the need for daily exercise.
Osteocalcin levels in the blood increase during muscle exertion. However, the amount of osteocalcin produced during a workout depends on a person’s age. Osteocalcin levels decline as women approach age 30 and men approach age 50. Still, the research is promising.
But, insulin production and muscle performance are not the only areas affected by this powerful noncollagenous protein.
Bones may hold a key to unlocking memories?
Karsenty also discovered that osteocalcin reverses age-related memory loss in mice.
His research team collaborated with Eric Kandel, MD, University Professor, co-director of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia and a senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Kavli Professor of Brain Science at Columbia University to examine osteocalcin’s impact on memory. The team found an osteocalcin receptor in the brain. Further study proved osteocalcin binds to the Gpr158 receptor found in the neurons of the CA3 region of the brain’s memory center (hippocampus).
Researchers found older mice with increased levels of osteocalcin achieved the same scores on memory tests as their younger counterparts. Conversely, younger mice with decreased osteocalcin levels performed poorly on same tests.
Is osteocalcin the biological fountain of youth?
It appears that way in the world of mice.
As osteocalcin levels increased in older mice so did their ability to run longer and faster, and achieve higher scores on memory tests without negative effects. At this point, researchers have not found any toxic side effects from the administration of increased levels of osteocalcin in the mouse population.
But, what does that mean for us?
It does not mean we should search the Internet to find the best osteocalcin supplement. More research is needed before people increase their osteocalcin levels by reaching for an over-the-counter solution.
We can, however, help ourselves by adopting healthy habits that increase the bone-building activity of the osteoblasts.
- Eat a bone-friendly diet rich in vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium.
- Complete at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises every day. Walking, marching in place, jumping up and down on one leg, or dancing in the living room to your favorite playlist are easy ways to incorporate weight-bearing activities into your daily routine.
Practicing a healthy lifestyle is the natural way to increase osteocalcin, strengthen your bones, raise your metabolism, enhance your memory, and improve your muscle performance.
Omar Al Rifai, Jacqueline Chow, Julie Lacombe, Catherine Julien, Denis Faubert, Delia Susan-Resiga, Rachid Essalmani, John W.M. Creemers, Nasearcbil G. Seidah, Mathieu Ferron. Proprotein convertase furin regulates osteocalcin and bone endocrine function. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2017; 127 (11): 4104 DOI: 10.1172/JCI93437
University of Montreal. (2017, November 1). Your bones affect your appetite — and your metabolism! A Montreal Clinical Research Institute discovery sheds light on this phenomenon. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171101091957.htm
Mera et al. Osteocalcin signaling in myofibers is necessary and sufficient for optimum adaptation to exercise. Cell Metabolism, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.05.004
Cell Press. (2016, June 14). Bone hormone boosts muscle performance during exercise but declines with age. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 21, 2018, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160614133602.htm
Columbia University Medical Center. (2017, August 29). Bone-derived hormone reverses age-related memory loss in mice: Study also identified a possible target for novel therapies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170829091052.htm