You may have noticed that hyaluronic acid, a multi-tasking carbohydrate, has become quite prevalent in topical anti-aging creams, supplements, and other products. But what exactly is hyaluronic acid, why is it such a popular ingredient in personal care products, and does it help or harm your bones?
Today we’re going to explore these questions and more about hyaluronic acid, including its role in bone health.
So let’s get started!
Hyaluronic Acid Defined
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring mucopolysaccharide (also known as a glycosaminoglycan), so called because it’s found in the mucus membranes and in the fluid surrounding the joints. It’s also found in bones, cartilage, skin, tendons…in fact, hyaluronic acid is found in nearly every human cell. In the synovial joints, hyaluronic acid assists in producing a viscous fluid that fills the synovial sac, lubricating the joint.
Hyaluronic acid binds to water molecules, resulting in a thick, gelatinous fluid. It’s made up of two modified simple sugars that occur in a repetitive sequence, and is several thousand molecules long.
Hyaluronic Acid Synthesis
Your body makes a few grams of hyaluronic acid each day. In the presence of iron and Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid is broken down and excreted via the liver, so you have a fresh supply on a regular basis. It’s not unlike the process of bone turnover – the hyaluronic acid needs to be broken down so it can be replaced with active, fresh hyaluronic acid, just as worn-out bone cells need to be removed to make way for strong, new cells. Hyaluronic acid’s half-life is very brief – one day or less in the skin, and no more than three weeks in cartilage.
When hyaluronic acid breaks down, the long chain of sugar molecules breaks into smaller chains of filaments, which are free radicals and very unstable. If you’re on the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you’re already ingesting plenty of antioxidants from the pH-balanced nutritional plan described in the Program, so this process is kept in balance.
Both the building and breaking down of hyaluronic acid are important. As we age, however, hyaluronic acid synthesis begins to slow down. Joints can become stiff, skin wrinkles, and bones tend to lose density more easily. So to keep up optimal levels of hyaluronic acid, it mays sound logical to take a supplement.
However, there is little scientific evidence to support the ingestion of hyaluronic acid as a viable means to obtain more. In animal studies, only very small amounts of the acid were absorbed after oral administration.1 And there’s no appreciable amount of hyaluronic acid found in foods. So how can you get more of it?
Obtaining Optimal Hyaluronic Acid Levels
The best way to increase hyaluronic acid levels is to provide your body with all the building blocks it needs to manufacture it, and healthfully break it down. Specifically, your body uses magnesium, zinc, and sulfur to generate hyaluronic acid, and iron and Vitamin C to break it down; so consuming foods rich in these nutrients will give your body what it needs to make hyaluronic acid. Your bones also need these nutrients in order to rejuvenate and increase in strength.
- Magnesium* deficiency is disturbingly prevalent among Westerners. It is found in foods such as almonds, bananas, legumes, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and Swiss chard.
- Sulfur, a bone-healthy nutrient itself, is present in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, cabbage, and kale.
- Zinc* is plentiful in chickpeas, dark chocolate, turkey, cashews, almonds, yogurt, and pumpkin seeds.
- Iron is found in dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, lean beef, organ meats such as beef liver, chickpeas, and raisins.
- Vitamin C* is found in just about all plant foods, which are emphasized on the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. It’s found in particularly high amounts in foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and parsley. This vitamin is also an antioxidant, so it is important in “cleaning up” the hyaluronic acid it helps break down.
Savers will recognize that these foods are Foundation Foods in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. Balancing hyaluronic acid levels is just one of the many, many ways that the Program’s nutritional plan rejuvenates bone and allows them to flourish.
Now that you know how to support your body in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, you’re probably wondering about all the functions it performs in your body. You’ll soon learn that, amazingly, it’s responsible for (at least in part) the proper functioning of nearly all body systems.
Below are the main areas in the body where hyaluronic acid is required.
How – And Where – Hyaluronic Acid Behaves In The Body
- The synovial joints, such as the elbows, knees, and knuckles, are surrounded by a fluid-filled membrane that acts as a lubricant and shock absorber. Hyaluronic acid is present in this membrane, which manufactures the viscous synovial fluid. It is then secreted from the membrane into the synovial capsule. In addition to its role in producing this fluid, hyaluronic acid transports nutrients to the cartilage and carries away toxic materials and waste.
- Inside the eyes, hyaluronic acid composes almost all of the vitreous humor, the liquid inside the eyeball. As it does in the joints, hyaluronic acid transports nutrients into the eye, and acts as a shock absorber. Decreased production of hyaluronic acid as we age may account in large part for the eye problems may people experience as they age.
- The highest concentrations of hyaluronic acid are found in the skin. It is present in all of the skin’s layers, including the scalp, keeping the skin elastic, plump, and smooth, and giving hair its luster. Its water-binding ability provides skin with continuous moisture. This is why hyaluronic acid has made its way into so many skin care products.
Connective tissue such as tendons, collagen (found in bone matrix), and ligaments all depend on hyaluronic acid, which cushions the connective tissue cells and keeps them from becoming too tightly packed. Once again, the gelatinous fluid produced by hyaluronic acid is the key to its function – the thick liquid performs the cushioning and weight distribution so essential to motion and weight-bearing exercise.
In connective tissue (and other tissues), hyaluronic acid is found in the extracellular matrix, or ECM. The ECM is any collection of molecules that are outside and between cells. Hyaluronic acid is required in the ECM, where it absorbs large amounts of water and provides resistance to compression and swelling. Interestingly, hyaluronic acid is found first on the inside of the cellular membrane, but during biosynthesis, it moves out of the cell and into the ECM.
- Hyaluronic acid’s various roles in bone tissue include the formation of hyaline cartilage, the thick, cushiony substance that covers the ends of bones such as the femur and humerus. This cartilage is also found on the end of your nose, in your larynx and trachea, and between the sternum and ribs. It greatly resists everyday wear and stress, which is why it’s sometimes called the “gristle” cartilage. And hyaluronic acid forms its base.
As you’ll read next, there are more roles that hyaluronic acid plays in bone health, and some fascinating research sheds light on this.
Study: Hyaluronic Acid Builds Bones By Influencing Osteoblast Differentiation
For this study, scientists applied glycosaminoglycans, including hyaluronic acid, to tissue cultures. Interestingly, in the presence of all the glycosaminoglycans but one (chondroitin-4-sulphate):
“Osteoblast differentiation-associated genes…showed significant upregulation.”2
“Hyaluronic acid provided the most favourable condition for osteoblast differentiation and bone matrix synthesis.”2
To clarify, cellular differentiation is the process by which a “generic” cell becomes a specialized cell. The process depends on various factors too numerous to list here; but it comes down to genetic expression. The genes that are expressed – or “activated” – determine which cell becomes what. So for a cell to become an osteoblast (bone-building cell), various key factors must be in place for that to happen, including the presence of certain nutrients and substances. Hyaluronic acid is one of those substances.
This begs an interesting question: could the body’s age-related decrease in hyaluronic acid synthesis account, in part, for the onset of osteoporosis? It certainly would make sense for this to be a factor in the low bone density that often coincides with age. That means it’s more important than ever to eat a bone-building, pH-balanced diet as we get older – quite the opposite of the “it’s too late to eat healthfully and build bones” attitude that is so prevalent these days. It most certainly is not too late! It’s just the right time, in fact.
The influential role in the differentiation of osteoblasts is not all that science has discovered about hyaluronic acid. More research reveals its role in bone remodeling.
Hyaluronic Acid Required For Healthy Bone Resorption
Savers know that the tearing down of worn-out bone is an essential aspect of building healthy bone, although it seems ironic. Hyaluronic acid helps in this process in remarkable ways. Researchers explored “the role of this polysaccharide in bone homeostasis”2 by reviewing copious amounts of studies, and published the results in a comprehensive report.
The research, they discovered, clearly identifies hyaluronic acid (referred to as hyaluronan or HA in the report) as a key factor in healthy bone remodeling. In conjunction with PTH (parathyroid hormone), hyaluronic acid can actually be utilized as a specific marker of bone resorption, noting that:
“ Hyaluronic acid … has been clearly linked to bone resorption.”2
The way hyaluronic acid influences bone remodeling is via its cell-binding ability. In healthy bone turnover, osteoclasts, the cells that tear down and remove worn-out bone, bind to bone surfaces to remove them.
Researchers discovered that:
“…osteoclasts have recently been shown to possess cell surface proteins capable of binding to HA, in particular CD44, a cell surface HA binding protein capable of supporting cell adhesion, HA may also regulate the osteoclast’s ability to bind to bone surfaces by acting alone or in conjunction with osteopontin, bone siaoloprotein or other matrix proteins (likely synthesized by osteoclasts).”2
You may be hesitant to increase levels of a substance that increases the tearing down of bone. But actually, the opposite is true. You see, removal of old bone is essential so it can be replaced with young and healthy bone. Clearly, aiding your body in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid is merely supporting an essential natural process.
As the Osteoporosis Reversal Program explains in Chapter 3, titled ‘Make No Bones About It: The Importance Of Bone Density Is Greatly Exaggerated’:
“The remodeling process is of prime importance. During this process, bone cells called osteoclasts move through bone tissue with the purpose of capturing old bone for its removal. Once this happens, small serrated spaces are left behind so that bone cells called osteoblasts can deposit new bone, thus old bone is replaced with brand new bone. In this manner, about 5 to 10% of all our bone tissue is replaced – or turned over – during one year.”
“Because osteoclasts allow for osteoblasts to deposit new, healthy and more ductile (flexible) bone, osteoblasts cannot perform their function properly without appropriate osteoclast activity.” [emphasis added]
So as you can see, helping osteoclasts do their job is a healthful and vital aspect of bone health. This is where osteoporosis drugs miss the mark. They stop the process of bone remodeling, inhibiting osteoclast activity, resulting in bone that may look denser on a scan, but is actually composed of old, worn-out cells that should have been replaced with new and healthy ones.
Savers Are Ahead Of The Game Once Again
The Program is all about nutritional, not pharmaceutical ways to build bone, including the regulation of hyaluronic acid levels. The common thread you’ve undoubtedly noticed in today’s post is the role that Foundation Supplements and Foundation Foods play in maintaining and boosting the synthesis of hyaluronic acid in the body.
That’s just one of many crucial functions these foods play in building healthy bone. Foundation Foods contain nutrients and substances that are essential for all aspects of bone health, alkalizing your body’s pH, providing key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and so much more.
Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss
Join thousands of Savers from around the world who have reversed or prevented their bone loss naturally and scientifically with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
So if you’re following the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you’re affirmed once again! Keep up the healthful work and be encouraged and positive on your journey to younger, healthier, fracture-resistant bones.
Till next time,
1 Mathews, S., et al. “Glycosaminoglycans enhance osteoblast differentiation of bone marrow derived human mesenchymal stem cells.” J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 8. 2. (2014): 143-52. Web. July 16, 2016. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/jf8017029
2 Prince, Charles W., “Roles of hyaluronan in bone resorption.” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 5. 12. (2004). Web. July 16, 2016. http://bmcmusculoskeletdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2474-5-12