The Health Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid Supplements

Daily supplement may improve joint function and reduce wrinkles

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Hyaluronic acid is a substance found naturally in the body. Classified as a polysaccharide (a type of carbohydrate), hyaluronic acid occurs in high concentrations in the skin, joints, and eye, where it provides lubrication and sustains tissue hydration.

Hyaluronic acid is also available as a dietary supplement using synthesized forms of the compound. Since hyaluronic acid levels decrease as you get older, hyaluronic acid supplements may help treat or prevent aging-related health conditions.

Conditions That Hyaluronic Acid Supplements May Help
Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee

Health Benefits

One of the most common uses of hyaluronic acid is the treatment and management of osteoarthritis (also known as "wear-and-tear arthritis"). The oral supplement is believed by some to offer the same benefits as hyaluronic acid injections in the knee or hyaluronic acid serums on the face.

Practitioners of alternative medicine contend that hyaluronic acid supplements can also prevent or treat an array of unrelated health problems, including:

Some of these claims are better supported by research than others. Others are largely anecdotal or border on pseudoscience. Here is some of what the current studies say:

Osteoarthritis

Hyaluronic acid is a viscous fluid that, among other things, helps lubricate the joint space. In people with severe knee osteoarthritis, an injectable form of hyaluronic acid, called hyaluronan, can provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness.

Less certain is the benefit of hyaluronic acid when taken by mouth. With that being said, a number of smaller studies have shown promise.

Among them, a 2015 study published in Rheumatology International reported that a three-month course of an oral hyaluronic supplement called Oralvisc offered relief to overweight adults with knee osteoarthritis. Among the 40 people in the study, those given Oralvisc had a steep reduction in inflammatory proteins (called cytokines) as well as an increased concentration of hyaluronic acid in joint fluids.

A 2017 study in the Journal of Medical Food reported that an oral formulation of hyaluronan had similar effects. Among the 72 adults with knee arthritis who complete the study, those given oral hyaluronan had lower pain scores, improved sleep quality, and a significant reduction in the use of pain medications compared those provided a placebo.

Skin Wrinkles

There is evidence that oral hyaluronic acid has "anti-aging" properties that can improve skin tone and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

According to a 2017 study in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, 60 women and men with crow's feet wrinkles experienced a reduction in wrinkle depth and volume, as well as improved skin luster and suppleness, after 12 weeks of treatment with oral hyaluronan. Two different concentration were used, each dosed at 120 milligrams (mg) per day.

Interestingly, those provided the higher concentration experienced similar results to those given the lower concentration, albeit in a shorter period of time.

A 2017 study in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine similarly reported that a hyaluronic acid supplement containing biotin, vitamin C, copper, and zinc improved skin elasticity, texture, and moisture in 20 women, ages 45 to 60, after 40 days. In addition to a reduction in wrinkle depth, the women experienced a 24.43% increase in skin hydration.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the long-term safety of hyaluronic acid supplements. However, a 2016 review of studies in the Nutrition Journal reported that, of the 13 clinic trials reviewed, no notable side effects were reported in any of the 760 participating men or women.

This shouldn't suggest that oral hyaluronic acid is entirely free of side effects. When injected, hyaluronic acid is known to cause headaches, dizziness, itching, tingling, or swelling. The same could theoretically occur with oral hyaluronic acid, albeit mildly due to the lower dose.

On rare occasion, hyaluronic acid can cause allergy. Since some forms of hyaluronic acid are derived from a rooster's comb, people allergic to chicken feathers, protein, or eggs should use the supplement with caution. (Other forms of hyaluronic acid are synthesized through bacterial fermentation.)

Oral hyaluronic should be avoided in people with a history of cancer. According to a 2016 study in Clinical Drug Investigation, hyaluronic acid can promote cell growth and theoretically increase the risk of cancer recurrence.

The safety of hyaluronic supplements in children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers has not been established. It is also unknown if hyaluronic acid can interact with other drugs or supplements.

Dosage and Preparation

Hyaluronic acid supplements can be readily found online or in any number of drugstores, health food stores, or shops specializing in nutritional supplements. Unlike injectable hyaluronic acid, you do not need a prescription.

Most hyaluronic acid supplements are sold in tablet, capsule, or softgel form, although there are some flavored and unflavored liquid formulations as well. Some over-the-counter arthritis remedies will also contain a combination of hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate.

There are no universal guidelines for the appropriate use of oral hyaluronic acid. Some manufacturers will recommend a daily 200-mg dose, while others endorse up to 1,000 mg per day.

Despite claims to the contrary, there is no evidence that higher doses translate to better results. In fact, most clinical studies have limited the daily intake of hyaluronic acid to no more than 240 mg.

What to Look For

Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States, making it difficult to know which brands are reliable and which are not.

One sign of quality is a stamp of approval from the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International (NSF), or ConsumerLab (CL). These independent certifying bodies are tasked with ensuring that the ingredients listed on a product label are correct and pure. Only supplements voluntarily submitted for testing are eligible for certification.

Always read to ingredient panel to check for substances that you may be sensitive to, including gluten and other common allergens. If you don't recognize an ingredient a product label, ask your pharmacist.

If you are allergic to poultry or eggs, opt for brands marked "vegan" or "vegan-friendly." Even if you are not allergic, you will want to check that softgels are made with vegetable-based gelatin if you are strictly vegetarian or vegan.

Hyaluronic acid supplements can be stored in the refrigerator but can keep just as well in a cool, dry room. Discard any supplement that has expired or shows signs of moisture damage or deterioration.

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