October is filled with scares, thrills and frights. When humans, or other animals, are faced with any sudden dangers or threats from predators our heart rates increase, our breathing speeds up and glucose is pumped around the body to prepare us and animals for the ‘fight or flight’ response.
This response is often associated with the release of the hormone adrenaline – however, new research from Columbia researchers is proving differently. Our skeleton is the wondrous structure in our body for many reasons, however, especially in this instance. We can’t muster up any response to danger without our skeleton. The brain instructs the skeleton to flood the body with the bone-derived hormone osteocalcin, which we now know is what kicks in the fight or flight reaction.
While bones have often been viewed as merely a structural feature within human and animal bodies, it seems that they have a far more intrinsic responsibility in how our body functions as well as its complex interactions with our organs. The osteocalcin hormone also helps metabolic function increasing the ability of cells to take in glucose, improves memory, and helps animals run faster with greater endurance.
“If you think of bone as something that evolved to protect the organism from danger—the skull protects the brain from trauma, the skeleton allows vertebrates to escape predators, and even the bones in the ear alert us to approaching danger—the hormonal functions of osteocalcin begin to make sense,” mentioned the senior investigator Gérard Karsenty, MD, Ph.D. who has been working and testing the theory for the last 10 years.
All this evidence would also explain why animals without adrenal glands and adrenal-insufficient patients—with no means of producing adrenaline or other adrenal hormones—can develop an acute stress response.
Just another reason to take extra care of your skeleton, including your spine, as it is so much more important than we even know yet.