Bones, Sugar and Sex

September 28, 2011

Bones, Sugar and Sex: The Mystery Who-Dun-It 

 ReferenceNew York Times  8/23/2011  - Gerard Karsenty, Columbia University Competency:  Bone Health And you thought bones were all just dry old support systems filled with boring calcium!  Ha!  Not nearly so.   It’s back to the osteocalcin story.  We’ve known for a couple of years that bones put out osteocalcin which is a critical player in keeping your sugar in control.  That’s part of why exercise helps hold your blood glucose in control for a day or so.  Nifty.  

This same team of researchers is on a tear and have figured out that osteocalcin does something a bit more interesting than just sugar control.. Sex!  Well, not quite but close.  It’s the headliner that gets you to read on.  We’ve known for a long time that proper levels of estrogen and testosterone help keep healthy bones.  So, that direction of metabolic interplay is well established. 

But what do bones have to do with sex?   What is the metabolic effect the other way?   Lots.  It’s osteocalcin and its effects on the testes. Dr. Karsenty found that osteocalcin has binding sites on the testes in mice.    Male mice that had been genetically altered to lack osteocalcin had fewer and smaller offspring.   Female mice had no affect on their ovaries from the osteocalcin.   

Now, reported this week is that Dr. Karsenty has found that human testes also have osteocalcin receptors.  So osteocalcin is another key component to men making healthy amounts of sperm and testosterone.   We’ve known for decades that LH (leuteinizing hormone) is the critical hormone from our brains to set our production of testosterone.  Maybe osteocalcin is the fine tuner. 

 What is the bigger picture here?  Bones aren’t passive.  In fact, the health of your bones is being intimately linked to your overall health.  The nimble and delicate interplay of hormones between all of our organs continues to unfold.  Keeping healthy bones becomes a key component of overall health. So the question is begged.  How do I keep healthy bones?  Exercise!  Walking, running, playing, weight-bearing exercise.  What ever you are doing, do a little more!  Getting sweaty is probably a real boost.  Hormone balance.  Getting your estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone right helps.  Lower acid eating (less meat and cheese, more vegetables).  Proper sleep.  More brightly colored foods.  Less stress.  Less inflammation.  And sex.  Have some.  Whew, that’s the list. 

 WWW.  What Will Work for Me.   I’m continuing to learn to run.  Each week, I’m adding five steps to my distance.  Really, really, really, little increments.  And every 125 steps, I walk for 20.  It’s all mental.  I keep telling my brain that my life and welfare depend on those twenty minutes of sweatiness.  I keep saying “I love this” when deep down inside, my lizard brain is complaining.   And running is making me spew out more osteocalcin.  Think of that.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD. from Brookfield Longevity in Brookfield, Wisconsin