The Hormone That Stops the Brain from Aging (And How to Get More of It)

| Sep 30, 2017

It’s no secret that the brain is an enormously complex organ. There is a great deal that we still don’t know about it—perhaps this is why, for decades, neurodegeneration researchers preferred to assume that cognitive decline is simply an inevitability of old age. After all, how could we possibly claim control over something about which we know so little?

While this kind of humility is still merited when approaching neuroscience, research into cognitive decline has come a long way—and we’re beginning to see that we can control many of the factors implicated in neurodegeneration.

In a recent article, for example, we detailed one doctor’s integrative treatment program for reversing Alzheimer’s disease. Over the course of a year, committed patients of his were able to improve their memory and communication skills, and even physically increase hippocampal volume (which tends to shrink as Alzheimer’s sets in).

This kind of success has ushered in more research into the granular factors underlying cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer’s disease—and some of the findings are surprising. For example, researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center have discovered that one unlikely hormone (osteocalcin which usually has more to do with bone strength) could be critical for preventing and even reversing memory loss.

Why osteocalcin isn’t just for bones

Osteocalcin is the most abundant non-collagenous protein in your bones; it’s produced by cells called osteoblasts, and is essential for preserving the integrity of the skeletal system. For this reason, serum levels of osteocalcin can be used as a primary biomarker for osteoporosis.[1]

But medical researchers are beginning to recognize a strange fact: everything is connected, and nearly every fundamental element of the human body has more than one role to play. Osteocalcin is no exception. The more researchers dig into the mechanisms of this underrated hormone, the more they uncover about its multi-faceted functionality in the body—skeletal integrity, it seems, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Hormones are often responsible for overseeing the primary rhythms and functions of the body—such as energy metabolism, circadian rhythm, mood, and reproduction. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that osteocalcin is critical for the safeguarding of both fertility and proper metabolic function.

Studies have found that infertility (especially in males) is linked with low levels of osteocalcin.[2] This line of study, which features the use of the interesting term “pancreas-bone-testis axis,” is a particularly good illustration of the body’s interconnectedness.

Similarly, those suffering from diabetes or metabolic syndrome (the precursor to diabetes, marked by the onset of insulin insensitivity) also tend to have low osteocalcin levels. Studies even go so far as to say that “bone metabolism and glucose metabolism are associated with each other through the action of osteocalcin.”[3]

 Osteocalcin plays a central role in protecting the integrity of the brain.

Despite these findings, though, researchers were still surprised when they discovered that osteocalcin also plays a central role in protecting the integrity of the brain.

The results are quite conclusive: researchers found that restoring the osteocalcin levels of elderly animals equalized their memory and learning capacities with those of young animals (the same was true after transfusions of osteocalcin-rich blood). Furthermore, when young animals were given osteocalcin antibodies that cleared the hormone from their bodies, their memory and cognitive function deteriorated rapidly. The researchers confirmed that this mechanism is due to osteocalcin’s regulation of cognition via the Gpr158 receptor in the hippocampus.[4]

How to give your brain the osteocalcin it needs

Optimizing osteocalcin levels requires the same lifestyle practices that we usually recommend: eat an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich diet with plenty of organic whole foods, exercise and use detoxification practices regularly, and use supplements to remedy nutrient deficiencies.

While any optimal lifestyle must include proper diet, exercise and supplementation have been shown to be particularly important for maintaining healthy osteocalcin levels.

The same group of Columbia researchers mentioned above found that osteocalcin levels increase significantly after exercise[5] (and staying active has long been shown to prevent structural dysfunction and bone deterioration—“use it or lose it,” as they say).

The production of osteocalcin within the body is dependent upon the presence of vitamin K

Perhaps the most fundamental factor of all, though, is maintaining proper levels of vitamin D and vitamin K. The production of osteocalcin within the body, and its proper binding with bone tissue, is dependent upon the presence of vitamin K. It’s somewhat difficult to get enough vitamin K from food (especially vitamin K2, and especially if you’re already deficient), so supplementation with a high-bioavailability formula is wise.

As you may remember from previous articles, though, you should always take vitamin K and vitamin D in conjunction with one another. They work synergistically to mobilize osteocalcin and ensure that it ends up in the right place (deficiency can cause calcification of the arteries rather than calcium-binding in the bones).

We highly recommend this liposomal blend of vitamin K2 and vitamin D3; it contains the perfect ratio of the two nutrients, is formulated with the highest-quality forms of each vitamin, and it features the highest absorption rate of any formulation method on the market.

 

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References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4576601/

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110217124909.htm

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4689779/

[4] http://jem.rupress.org/content/early/2017/08/28/jem.20171320

[5] http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/abstract/S1550-4131(16)30222-4

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