Products with hyaluronic acid are considered natural means for healthy joints and beautiful skin. Does Hyaluronic Acid Really Help? And what is the best way to use them?
Hyaluronic acid in the human body
Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that is found in almost all types of tissue in the human body. It is found outside the cells, i.e. in the extracellular space, and is formed by the fibroblasts, the connective tissue cells.
The tasks of hyaluronic acid in the human body
Hyaluronic acid has many tasks and functions in the body. So she is e.g. B. involved in wound healing, but also forms an important part of the synovial fluid, also called synovial fluid or synovia. This viscous liquid is in the joint and forms a protective lubricating film on the cartilage.
The synovial fluid is also responsible for supplying the cartilage with nutrients and also acts as a shock absorber, which is only possible because hyaluronic acid has the property of binding an extremely large amount of water. In this way, it swells up a lot, so that it not only ensures a viscous and well shock-absorbing synovia but also tightens the skin, which is why it can be found in many anti-aging products (creams, gels, etc.).
Hyaluronic acid is lacking in arthrosis
In osteoarthritis of the knee, the cartilage in the knee joint gradually deteriorates over the years. There is pain and a feeling of tension. If you keep it still, the joint “rusts” and arthrosis or deterioration of the same occurs all the faster.
Because exercise in particular (alternating stress and relief) ensures that the synovia is pressed into the cartilage and can supply it with the nutrients it needs. This is why targeted movement therapy/physiotherapy can be so helpful for (knee) arthrosis.
Hyaluronic acid injections in the knee
Hyaluronic acid is responsible for the vicious, nourishing, and protective properties of the synovial fluid and is therefore one of the most important components of the synovia. For this reason, some doctors offer an injection treatment with hyaluronic acid into the knee as an alternative to cortisone injections – but at the expense of the patient, the health insurance companies do not cover anything here.
The hyaluronic acid does not work quite as quickly as cortisone, but the effect that occurs slowly then lasts longer. However, several injections are required and the patient has to visit his doctor or the clinic again and again at short intervals. In addition, getting injections in the knee isn’t exactly comfortable, so these injection regimens are not considered very patient-friendly.
However, since the oral intake of hyaluronic acid has also shown a positive effect on knee arthrosis in various studies, one could save oneself in this way from the torture of injections.
How and if you can take hyaluronic acid for osteoarthritis
There are now a number of studies in which patients (often for 8 weeks) have taken hyaluronic acid preparations – mostly with 80 to 240 mg hyaluronic acid, which led to less pain and less stiffness.
In 2012, for example, an interesting study was published in The Scientific World Journal, which showed a clear effect of hyaluronic acid in patients with knee osteoarthritis after one year of use.
Participants were 60 men and women (over 50 years) with knee osteoarthritis. The participants received 4 capsules per day, each with 50 mg hyaluronic acid (always after breakfast), i.e. a total of 200 mg per day or the corresponding number of placebo capsules.
In addition, all subjects were asked to perform specific quadriceps (thigh muscle) strengthening exercises daily.
Side effects were hardly noticed, at least none that could be specifically attributed to hyaluronic acid. There was an improvement in symptoms in both groups, but the improvement was more pronounced in the hyaluronic acid group, especially in participants under 70 years of age.
The improvement in the placebo group was due to exercise. Another study showed how important this is, in which one group completed the said training, another group received the usual NSAIDs (non-steroidal painkillers) and after 8 weeks both groups were doing equally well in terms of osteoarthritis – only the training group scored progress through active muscle building, while the drug group not only had to deal with the side effects of the drugs but also had to forego the benefits of increasing fitness.
However, the research group of the hyaluronic study described above also included four employees from the research and development department of the Kewpie Corporation – a manufacturer of hyaluronic acid preparations – so the positive result may no longer be assessed quite so objectively.
Nevertheless, a review from 2016, in which all 13 clinical studies carried out up to that point in time with hyaluronic acid in knee osteoarthritis, showed consistently positive results. In most cases, the pain in the joint and the stiffness decreased, the functionality of the joint and the muscles improved, swelling decreased, the bone metabolism could be optimized or the patient’s activities increased.
This is how hyaluronic acid works in the joint
The question is often asked whether hyaluronic acid taken orally is absorbed in relevant quantities at all and then also – in an active, i.e. effective form – is transported to the joints, the bones, and the skin. However, studies using radiolabeled hyaluronic acid show that this is exactly the case.
Hyaluronic acid and cancer
In some scientific works, hyaluronic acid is associated with cancer, since tumors apparently produce a particularly large amount of hyaluronic acid, because the acid helps cancer to form new blood vessels (angiogenesis), which improves its nutrient supply and thus accelerates its growth.
However, it is a hyaluronic acid with a very low molecular mass. On the other hand, high molecular weight hyaluronic acid – found in dietary supplements – has been linked to inhibiting cancer.
It is interesting that the naked mole rat – a rodent native to East Africa the size of a rat – should not get cancer precisely because it has a special form of hyaluronic acid (with a particularly large molecular mass) that nips cancer in the bud.
You should pay attention to this when buying hyaluronic acid products
In the past (and in some cases still today), hyaluronic acid preparations were obtained from cockscombs. Today they are also available in vegan quality. The hyaluronic acid is then z. B. obtained by fermentation from corn.
Make sure that the product also contains effective doses (at least 200 mg hyaluronic acid, products with 500 mg are now also available) and that the molecular mass is specified (at least 500,000 to 700,000 daltons or 500 to 700 kilodaltons (kDa)).
How to take hyaluronic acid capsules
The entire daily dose can be taken at once, preferably after a meal, e.g. B. after breakfast.
Assuming one capsule contains 500 mg of hyaluronic acid and you only want to take half a day, you could also take one capsule every other day.
Hyaluronic acid can be combined with these dietary supplements
Hyaluronic acid is often offered in combination preparations, e.g. B. combined with vitamin C and zinc – two substances, both of which are also extremely important for healthy joints and strong connective tissue.
The combination with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and MSM is also ideal for osteoarthritis. In combined finished preparations, however, the dose of the individual substances is often too low. It is therefore better to use high-dose individual preparations that you then take together.
Also, remember to exercise as much as possible and eat the right food! Because the three pillars of nutrition, exercise, and targeted nutritional supplements can in many cases make arthrosis sufferers free of symptoms again.