Hyaluronic Acid – The Body's Natural Grease
In some ways your body and your car have similar characteristics. One of these similarities is the fact that when parts move, they need to be greased. Moving parts need to be stopped from rubbing together in order to eliminate friction and heat build up which contributes to deterioration and destruction. To protect your car you use motor oil. In your body you use synovial fluid (body grease). The basic ingredient in the creation of synovial fluid is hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) may very well be the single most important compound in the structure of the human body. Hyaluronic acid is one type of glycosaminoglycan (GAG). GAGs contain sulfur, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride (in cartilage and ligaments), keratin sulfate (in cartilage, bone, and cornea), dermatan sulfate (in skin, tendons, lungs, blood vessels and heart valves), and heparin sulfate (in cell membranes). The largest concentration of HA is found in the vitreous humor (interior fluid) of the eye, the synovial fluid around articulating joints and in between the cells of the body.
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring compound made by all cells. Present in every tissue, it performs many important functions. HA helps deliver nutrients to cells and carry toxins from cells that do not have a blood supply, such as those found in cartilage. HA not only keeps the cartilage that cushions joints strong and flexible, but also helps increase supplies of joint-lubricating synovial fluid. Without adequate amounts of HA, the joints will become brittle and deteriorate.
Joints are lubricated by synovial fluid. Hyaluronic acid is a primary component of synovial fluid. It functions as a lubricant, much like oil is used to lubricate moving parts in a machine. In the human body, hyaluronic acid helps to grease all membranes (the membranes around the heart, lungs, muscles and eyes) and the cartilage of joints.
Not only does it keep joints lubricated, but hyaluronic acid also encourages water retention in other bodily tissues to prevent dehydration.It is found in large concentrations in the extracellular matrix, the fluid-filled space between cells. HA locks moisture into the matrix, keeping collagen and elastin moist, promoting a youthful appearance.
Hyaluronic acid is a primary component of healthy skin, with about 50% of the HA contained in the skin matrix. Declining skin levels of hyaluronic acid are associated with dryness, reduced flexibility, and wrinkles. Clinical studies have shown that HA also helps wounds heal more quickly, and can reduce the appearance of both old and new scars. Injectible hyaluronic acid, such as Restylane, is being used to lessen the appearance of lines, wrinkles, sagging and depressions in the skin caused by acne scars or injury, though some people have reactions to the injectable form.
Hyaluronic acid is now believed to play a functional role in the formation of new body tissue, providing the organizing matrix around which new connective tissue is built. In essence, hyaluronic acid acts as a template upon which new tissue can be formed. A single molecule of HA, which may be quite long, can attach to hundreds of other structural protein molecules (amino acids), thereby assisting in the body’s building, replacement and repair functions.
Hyaluronic acid does not replace other structural support nutrients such as dietary protein, glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, sulfur, vitamin C, omega 3 fatty acid, cetyl myristoleate or bioflavonoids. These and other structural nutrients are very important because they attach to HA to produce the finished product.
The stimulus for cells to make hyaluronic acid can come from a variety of metabolic signals such as the body responding to an increased need for structural support due to physical stress. Thus, exercise is one way to help stimulate HA production. Cells throughout the body make HA as part of the natural repair and recovery process. However, the cellular creation of hyaluronic acid is inhibited by magnesium deficiency and the release of hormones created through stress.
Studies show improvement for most hyaluronic acid users after 2 to 4 months of oral supplementation. There are no serious side effects associated with oral HA. So, gear up your exercise regime, get your diet in order, take a good hyaluronic acid supplement and become a well-oiled machine.
1. Equine Vet Journal. (2006) 38 (4) 375-378
2. Ly DH Lockhart, Lerner RA, et al. Mitotic misregulation and human aging, Science 2000: 287:2486-2492.
3. Balazs EA. Viscoelastic properties of hyaluronic acid and biological lubrication. Univ Mich Med Cent J. 1968: 255-259.
For more info contact Dr. Kurt Grange, Nutritional Biophysiologist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.