A year or so ago I reported on a hormone made by the body that helps neurons stay healthier and acts to keep your intellectual abilities at a higher level with the passing years.
Now comes more good news from the researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center who have been studying this hormone. They say they have evidence that it may also reverse the memory loss that takes place as people grow older.
The hormone that has the Columbia researchers excited is called osteocalcin, a substance given off in bones by cells called osteoblasts. Here’s how it works and how you can take advantage.
Osteoblasts help build up bone tissue. And the osteocalcin they release helps bones resist fractures and cracking when they are stressed.
Along with its bone-strengthening duties, osteocalcin has been shown to play important roles throughout the body. For instance, the hormone is crucial for controlling blood sugar and lowering the risk of diabetes. It’s also vital for helping maintain fertility.
But the Columbia investigators have focused on how osteocalcin maintains the integrity of the brain.
As researcher Gerard Karsenty, M.D., Ph.D., points out, “In previous studies, we found that osteocalcin plays multiple roles in the body, including a role in memory. We also observed that the hormone declines precipitously in humans during early adulthood. That raised an important question: Could memory loss be reversed by restoring this hormone back to youthful levels?”
A New Fountain of Youth
The lab tests conducted by Prof. Karsenty and his colleagues have indicated that it probably does, although tests in humans are just underway.1
In their animal studies, the researchers have already found that 60 days of infusions of osteocalcin restored the learning and memory abilities of older animals to the point they were just as mentally nimble as younger animals. And transfusions of blood rich in osteocalcin had the same memory-restoring benefits.
Plus, when younger animals were subject to anti-osteocalcin antibodies that took the hormone out of their bodies, their memories deteriorated.
Benefits Your Brain’s Memory Center
The Columbia tests indicate that osteocalcin hooks up with a neuron receptor called Gpr158 that is found mostly in neurons within the brain location called the CA3 region of the hippocampus – which forms one of the brain’s primary memory centers.
Their investigations also show that animals suffer no serious side effectsfrom getting extra osteocalcin.
“It’s a natural part of our body, so it should be safe,” says Prof. Karsenty. “But of course, we need to do more research to translate our findings into clinical use for humans.”
Oh, by the way, their studies also show that osteocalcin is a fountain of youth for muscles, potentially making seniors as athletically fit as folks half their age.
How to Make More Osteocalcin
If you want to stem some of the body’s loss of osteocalcin as you age, frequent exercise is a must. The Columbia researchers have shown that blood levels of osteocalcin increase dramatically after you exercise.2
Aerobic exercises like swimming, running and biking are particularly effective for raising your osteocalcin levels, and weight lifting may similarly help.
Getting enough vitamin D – from supplements, food or exposing your skin to sunshine – is also important for maintaining osteocalcin levels. As is vitamin K from green, leafy vegetables and fermented foods like natto.3,4
Calcium, which is available in leafy green vegetables and dairy products, is important, too.
I believe that studies on bone tissue are on the verge of turning up a wealth of breakthrough knowledge about how well-functioning bones keep us healthier, in body and mind alike. As these studies come out, I’ll keep bringing you this important news.