In article in the Science edition of The Guardian July 4 2020 provides some interesting information that possibly explains the key to anti-aging lies in our bones. Osteocalcin, a hormone produced in the bones, could one day provide treatments for age-related issues such as muscle and memory loss.
Our bones are very much live organs, which we now believe play a role in regulating a whole range of vital bodily processes ranging from memory to appetite, muscle health, fertility, metabolism and many others. We now know that bones communicate by participating in a network of signals to other organs through producing their own hormones, proteins that circulate in the blood.
As we age, all of us inevitably lose bone. Research shows that humans reach peak bone mass in their 20s; from then onwards, it is a slow decline that can eventually lead to frailty and diseases such as osteoporosis in old age.
Over the past decade, new findings have suggested that this reduction in bone mass may also be linked to the weakening of muscles – referred to in medical terms as sarcopenia – as well as the memory and cognitive problems that many of us experience as we grow older.
This appears to be connected to the levels of osteocalcin in the blood, through its role as a “master regulator”, influencing many other hormonal processes in the body. “Osteocalcin acts in muscle to increase the ability to produce ATP, the fuel that allows us to exercise.” Bone is involved in communicating with other tissues in the body that wasn’t really understood or investigated before.
“In the brain, it regulates the secretion of most neurotransmitters that are needed to have memory. The circulating levels of osteocalcin declines in humans around mid-life, which is roughly the time when these physiological functions, such as memory and the ability to exercise, begin to decline.”
But intriguingly in recent years, the scientist Gérard Karsenty has conducted a series of experiments in which he has shown that by increasing the levels of osteocalcin in older mice through injections, you can actually reverse many of these age-related ailments. “Osteocalcin seems to be able to reverse manifestations of aging in the brain and in muscle. What is remarkable is that if you give osteocalcin to old mice, you restore memory and you restore the ability to exercise to the levels seen in a young mouse. That makes it potentially extremely attractive from a medical point of view.”
Scientists have also found that for humans, one way of naturally maintaining the levels of this hormone in the blood, even as we age, is through exercise, something that makes intuitive sense, as physical activity has long been known to have anti-aging properties.
Mathieu Ferron, a former student of Karsenty who now heads a research lab studying bone biology at ICRM in Montreal is hoping that these findings can be used to support public health messages regarding the importance of staying active through middle age and later life.
“If you exercise regularly, then it stimulates your bone to make more osteocalcin, and that will have these beneficial effects on muscle and brain,” he says. “From epidemiological studies, we know that people who are very active tend to have less of a cognitive decline with age than sedentary people. With time, maybe people will be more aware of this connection, and think of their bone health as being just as important as other aspects of staying healthy.”
Your health fitness professional plays a crucial role in providing bone building exercises that strengthen not just your skeletal system, those exercises also contribute to improved physical and mental function.