Joint pain and stiffness, and sagging, wrinkled skin are common complaints as we get older. But what if I told you there is a natural compound that could provide substantial benefits for both of these seemingly unrelated problems? Well, there is: hyaluronic acid.
What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan, a very long chain of disaccharides (sugars) present in all connective tissues that is responsible for retaining moisture. As we age, levels of hyaluronic acid fall—some say by as much as 50 percent. Genetics, smoking, and magnesium and zinc deficiencies appear to accelerate this loss, but it happens to all of us to some degree. The result? Aching joints and sagging skin.
That’s why supplementing with hyaluronic acid can help promote healthy joints and skin. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits of hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic Acid Benefits: Promote Healthy Joints
One of the most researched benefits of hyaluronic acid is its ability to alleviate aching joints. Its effectiveness in this area isn’t surprising since hyaluronic acid is especially concentrated in the knees, hips, and other moving joints. It is a major component of both cartilage and the synovial fluid that bathes these joints, binding to water to create a thick, gelatinous substance that lubricates and protects the cartilage.
Together, synovial fluid and cartilage act as shock absorbers that can withstand a tremendous amount of wear and tear. However, in joints afflicted by arthritis, hyaluronic acid levels are extremely low, causing the synovial fluid to become less viscous and the cartilage less cushiony.
For years, orthopedists have injected hyaluronic acid directly into the synovial spaces of arthritic joints for relief of pain and inflammation. This “lube job” is a pretty helpful treatment, but regardless of its effectiveness, many people shy away from injections.
Supplements to the Rescue
Fortunately, research suggests that when hyaluronic acid is taken orally, it increases the body’s natural production of this protective substance, making it an excellent, noninvasive therapy for arthritis. In an in-house, placebo-controlled study of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, those taking 80 mg of hyaluronic acid daily for two months had a 33 percent average improvement in pain scores compared to a 6 percent improvement in the placebo group.
In another study, participants with osteoarthritis of the knee who took 200 mg of hyaluronic acid daily for a year and participated in a muscle strengthening exercise program reported significant improvements in pain, stiffness, and activities of daily living compared to the placebo group, who also performed the same exercises.
How Does Hyaluronic Acid Compare to Other Supplements for Joint Health?
So where does hyaluronic acid fit in with glucosamine and other supplements for joint health? Truth is, they work on a similar principle. They all, to varying degrees, activate the genes that turn on the production of hyaluronic acid. Another supplement I recommend for supporting joint health—natural eggshell membrane—also contains naturally occurring amounts of hyaluronic acid.
The bottom line: I’m not saying you should give up glucosamine or other supplements for joint health. But, if you’d like extra support for your joints, I suggest giving hyaluronic acid a try.
Hyaluronic Acid Benefits: Save Your Skin
In addition to playing a vital role in joint health, another one of the benefits of hyaluronic acid is its effectiveness at maintaining healthy, youthful skin. The reason is because hyaluronic acid is an essential component of the skin. Thanks to its ability to promote collagen production and retain hundreds of times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid keeps the skin plumped up and hydrated.
Estrogen is another molecular signal for hyaluronic acid production, which explains why young women have such beautiful skin, why sagging and wrinkling come on somewhat abruptly after menopause, and why hyaluronic acid is a godsend for aging skin. Not surprisingly, plastic surgeons have capitalized on this discovery.
Injections of hyaluronic acid such as Restylane are used for a variety of cosmetic procedures, from lip and cheek enhancements to wrinkle reduction. Hyaluronic acid is also a popular ingredient in a number of moisturizers and other topical skin treatments and shows promise in wound healing and burn treatment, reducing scarring and speeding healing.
Because oral hyaluronic acid supplements rev up the natural production of hyaluronic acid, they are simply another ticket to more youthful skin.
Hyaluronic Acid Benefits: Fountain of Youth?
A while ago ABC ran a special about the residents of Yuzurihara, Japan. They reported that the World Health Organization, after surveying the residents of nearly 1,000 villages and towns throughout the world, determined that Yuzurihara, which is about two hours from Tokyo, was the “village of long life.” More than 10 percent of its residents were over 85. Most of them looked far younger than their years, were in excellent health, and engaged in farming and other activities well into their 80s.
Their longevity was attributed, at least in part, to their consumption of vegetables rich in hyaluronic acid. Though I don’t believe in magic bullets when it comes to anti-aging, given these varied benefits of hyaluronic acid and its important role in the health of the skin and joints, it certainly can’t hurt to give it a try.
Recommendations for Oral Hyaluronic Acid
There is some controversy over hyaluronic acid supplements. Hyaluronic acid is a very large molecule—too large, some argue, to be absorbed. Nevertheless, it breaks down in the stomach and enough of it gets in to signal the production of more hyaluronic acid, which is the ultimate goal.
The suggested oral dose of hyaluronic acid is 100–200 mg per day. Be patient; it may take two or three weeks to notice effects.