“Turn back the hands of time. Restore your smooth, radiant, and wrinkle-free skin.”
“Get rid of your blotches and blemishes. Bring back your youthful glow.”
“Stop looking your age.”
These are just some of the promises of skincare products promoted daily in our midst. It seems borderline offensive but effective – as seen in the growing market for anti-aging products worldwide. Who wouldn’t want to have young and good-looking skin anyway? It’s always good to take care of yourself in every healthy way possible. That includes skincare. And when we think of products that claim to counter (or reverse) skin aging, we think of hyaluronic acid.
But what is hyaluronic acid? Did you know that it’s more than just for aesthetics? It is also used for numerous eye and joint procedures. How? Let’s get to know it better.
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
HA was discovered in 1934 from the vitreous body of bovine eyes, and its name was derived from “hyalos” (Greek word for glass) and “uronic acid.” Hyaluronic acid is a type of glycosaminoglycan. Glycosaminoglycans are essential molecules that connect with proteins and help in numerous vital functions in the body. HA is so important that medical professionals use it as a diagnostic marker for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, liver ailments, and cancer. Hyaluronic acid (HA), also known as hyaluronan, is a naturally occurring polysaccharide present in almost all biological fluids and connective, neural, and epithelial tissues. In humans, it is highly concentrated in the fluids of the eyes and joints. Overall, the average human has 15 grams of hyaluronan acid in the body.
The biological functions of HA are diverse and complex. Below are some of its mechanisms:
Hyaluronic acid in the body…
- has protective effects for joints and cartilage
- reduces nerve impulses and sensitivity associated with pain
- reduces the activity and production of pro-inflammatory mediators
- alters the behavior of immune cells
- helps in the natural detoxification process
- inhibits the migration and aggregation of leukocytes and macrophages
- serves as a passive structural molecule
- acts as a signaling molecule by reacting with receptors
- is essential for the formation and development of the embryo
Since hyaluronic is viscous, elastic, and exhibits both solid and fluid characteristics, researchers have discovered various ways to use it. Aside from its medical and cosmetic use, hyaluronic acid is recognized as a healthy food additive, dietary supplement, and functional food. In fact, HA was first used commercially in 1942 as a substitute for egg whites in bakery products.
Natural Sources of Hyaluronic Acid
1. Animal Products
- Broth (with animal bones, tendons, and joints)
- Animal skin (chicken, fish, meat)
- Rooster comb (this is the most common source of HA for supplements)
- Animal organ meats
- Fruits high in vitamins C are also sources of hyaluronic acid. Examples are oranges, lemons, and lime. Note to gallbladder patients: Oranges are part of our ‘do not eat” list, especially during gallbladder attacks.
- Fruits high in magnesium can raise hyaluronic acid levels. Examples are banana, melon, and avocado.
- Tubers like sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, potatoes
- Vegetables high in vitamin C and magnesium like broccoli and asparagus may help boost the production of hyaluronic acid.
- Brown rice and other whole grains are rich in zinc and magnesium. The amount of those two minerals in our diet affects how our bodies produce their hyaluronic acid.
4. Soy products
- Soy products are packed with isoflavones, raising estrogen levels and increasing HA levels. Examples are tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, and soy pasta. Take note; however, that soy is a common allergen that may trigger inflammation or allergic reaction in many individuals.
Hyaluronic Acid Benefits
1. For Skin
Hyaluronic acid has numerous skin benefits:
- Moisturizes and hydrates.
- Helps protect from UV rays.
- Natural antioxidant, protectant.
- Facilitates wound healing.
Hyaluronic Acid as a Moisturizer
HA is most famous for its ability to hydrate the skin, an attribute that makes it an effective anti-aging agent. Many cosmetic manufacturers also dub hyaluronic acid as a “smart nutrient,” adjusting its moisture absorption rate relative to humidity. As you may know, skin moisture is significantly reduced as we age, making it prone to wrinkles, lines, and damage. The loss of elasticity makes it look dull and old. Thankfully, hyaluronic acid cushions and lubricates our skin. Studies even show that a gram of HA can hold as much as one liter of water! So products that claim that they are 90% hyaluronic acid really mean that they are made with 90% HA solution comprised primarily of water. Otherwise, if it has 90% HA, it will literally be a salt rock. As an industry standard, cosmetic products have 1% to 2% HA, more than that would make the skin dry. Another advantage of HA is it also serves as an additional layer of protection against UV rays.
Quick Stop: Hyaluronic Acid vs. Sodium Hyaluronate
Since we are on the topic of salt, it’s good to know that HA has a counterpart named sodium hyaluronate. It is more stable and less likely to oxidize. Sodium hyaluronate also has a much smaller molecular size than HA, so it can penetrate the skin better. HA used in skincare products is bioengineered so it could also have low molecular weight. Like HA, it is water-soluble and holds moisture 1000 times its weight.
HA for Wound Healing
Now back to the wonders of HA for the skin; it is also very useful for wound healing. Hyaluronic acid sometimes prevents postoperative adhesions that may require additional surgical procedures and impede wound healing. Esterified hyaluronic acid helps prevent infections by preventing bacterial adhesion to biomaterials like dental implants and catheters. HA’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help during skin regeneration and as well as for the management of inflammatory reactions like swelling and pain.
Hyaluronic Acid as an Antioxidant
Antioxidants prevent damage to the skin by neutralizing free radicals (such as pollutants and ultraviolet light. Hyaluronic acid helps counter reactive oxygen species (ROS) by free radical scavenging. This property is useful for skin and facial care and patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis since oxidative stress can also damage articular tissues (connective tissue in joints).
2. For Joints
There are numerous experiments proving the efficacy of hyaluronic acid for joints. Since it is present in every connective tissue and organ, there is very minimal risk of incompatibility. As a natural compound in the body, it serves as a protective coat around each articular cartilage cell, making it more resilient and resistant to compression. Depletion of natural HA in the body, on the other hand, contributes to joint pain and stiffness.
Knee gel injections and hyaluronic acid injections (aka viscosupplements) help with soft tissue functions like joint support and help combat osteoarthritis. This type of treatment was used and approved by the FDA in 1992. Since then, some doctors have also used it to treat other joints like the hips and ankle.
A hyaluronic acid injection is an excellent alternative to the use of NSAIDs. A 2006 review by the University of Queensland in Australia looked at 76 different studies using HA for osteoarthritis. In these studies, patients reported pain reduction by as much as 28 to 54%, comparable to the pain relief provided by NSAID treatment. Patient feedback also confirmed that HA significantly helped their mobility and daily living. However, it is noteworthy that in 2013, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) issued a new set of recommendations for knee osteoarthritis treatment and claimed that HA no longer met some of the clinical measures.
Hyaluronic Acid for Inflammation
One characteristic of HA that makes it a potent treatment for joints is its ability to reduce inflammation.
Here are some of its mechanisms of action against inflammation. These reactions are beneficial for those with problems in their joints and skin and individuals with autoimmune diseases.
- It helps suppress prostaglandins and cytokines, compounds that promote inflammation.
- HA is also said to produce a physical barrier against bacteria that further aggravate the inflammatory process.
- HA also moderates leukocyte infiltration, boosts angiogenesis, and decreases collagen deposition.
3. For Eyes
Hyaluronic acid is a natural component of the eye. But it was not until the late 1950s that hyaluronan was first used as a vitreous substitute. When the FDA approved the medical use of HA, ophthalmologists used it for corneal transplants, cataract removal, retina repair, and other eye injuries. HA solution is also used as a component of eye drops. It makes eye drops more viscous without introducing unnatural chemicals to the eye.
HA helps maintain the anterior chambers, permits manipulation of ocular tissues and protects the corneal endothelium for ophthalmological surgeries. Since it is nonimmunogenic, only mild or moderate inflammatory responses are reported among patients after surgery. Most of these responses are attributed to the surgery itself rather than an effect of HA.
Best Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
There are many HA products available in the market to choose from. Now that you have learned the wonders of HA, you may want to try the following for your every need:
Hyaluronic Acid 100 mg 180 Vegetarian Capsules – This oral supplement is suitable for knees and joints as well as the skin.
For your eyes:
10 ML Hylo Forte eye drops – may help moisturize and protect dry eyes
There are hundreds of hyaluronic skincare products available out there on Amazon. Choose a vegan source, if available, for the right serum and cream. Also, avoid those products that contain alcohol, parabens, or sulfates.
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