Osteocalcin and its forms respond similarly to exercise in males and females

D. Hiam, S. Landen, M. Jacques, S. Voisin, J. Alvarez-Romero, E. Byrnes, P. Chubb, I. Levinger, N. Eynon

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Acute exercise increases osteocalcin (OC), a marker of bone turnover, and in particular the undercarboxylated form (ucOC). Males and females differ in baseline levels of total OC and it is thought the hormonal milieu may be driving these differences. Males and females adapt differently to the same exercise intervention, however it is unclear whether the exercise effects on OC are also sex-specific. We tested whether the responses of OC and its forms to acute High Intensity Interval Exercise (HIIE) and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) differed between males and females. Secondly, we examined whether sex hormones vary with OC forms within sexes to understand if these are driving factor in any potential sex differences. Methods: Total OC (tOC), undercarboxylated OC (ucOC), and carboxylated OC (cOC) were measured in serum of 96 healthy participants from the Gene SMART cohort (74 males and 22 females) at rest, immediately after, and 3 h after a single bout of HIIE, and at rest, 48 h after completing a four week HIIT intervention. Baseline testosterone and estradiol were also measured for a subset of the cohort (Males = 38, Females = 20). Linear mixed models were used to a) uncover the sex-specific effects of acute exercise and short-term training on OC forms and b) to examine whether the sex hormones were associated with OC levels. Results: At baseline, males had higher levels of tOC, cOC, and ucOC than females (q < 0.01). In both sexes tOC, and ucOC increased to the same extent after acute HIIE. At baseline, in males only, higher testosterone was associated with higher ucOC (β = 3.37; q < 0.046). Finally, tOC and ucOC did not change following 4 weeks of HIIT. Conclusion/discussion: While there were no long-term changes in OC and its forms. tOC and ucOC were transiently enhanced after a bout of HIIE similarly in both sexes. This may be important in metabolic signalling in skeletal muscle and bone suggesting that regular exercise is needed to maintain these benefits. Overall, these data suggest that the sex differences in exercise adaptations do not extend to the bone turnover marker, OC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115818
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomarkers
  • Bone turnover
  • Exercise
  • Osteocalcin
  • Sex differences

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