Hyaluronic acid is a substance found naturally in the human body. Classified as a polysaccharide (a type of carbohydrate molecule), hyaluronic acid occurs in high concentrations in connective tissues and in eye fluids. A key function of hyaluronic acid is to help lubricate connective tissue and the eyes.
Hyaluronic acid is also available in dietary supplement form. Since the body's hyaluronic acid levels decrease as you get older, hyaluronic acid supplements are often said to treat or prevent aging-related health problems.
Health Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
So far, very few studies have tested the health effects of taking supplements containing hyaluronic acid. However, there's some evidence that hyaluronic acid supplements may offer certain benefits.
In a research review published in Current Rheumatology Reports in 2000, for instance, researchers determined that hyaluronic acid shows promise in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Looking at findings from animal-based research and preliminary studies in humans, the report's authors found that hyaluronic acid may help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, restore joint fluids, and protect against cartilage breakdown in osteoarthritis patients.
A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine in 2012, however, indicates that hyaluronic acid may not aid patients in recovery from knee arthroscopy (a common surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat knee problems).
For the study, 98 patients undergoing routine arthroscopic procedures were assigned to treatment with either hyaluronic acid or bupivacaine (a local anesthesia). Finding that hyaluronic acid failed to reduce pain or improve functioning in the patients, the study's authors concluded that hyaluronic acid cannot be recommended to people undergoing knee arthroscopy.
Uses for Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
One of the most common uses of hyaluronic acid supplements is treatment of osteoarthritis. In some cases, supplements formulated to treat osteoarthritis contain a combination of hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate.
In addition, proponents claim that hyaluronic acid supplements can help treat the following health problems:
Others Forms of Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid can be administered as an injection. Hyaluronic acid injections are most commonly used in treatment of eye disorders, but there's some evidence that injected hyaluronic acid may also help treat temporomandibular joint disorder (a condition more commonly referred to as "TMJ"). Intra-articular injections have also been explored for osteoarthritis.
In addition, hyaluronic acid is used as a lip filler during cosmetic surgery.
Personal-care products containing hyaluronic acid are also sometimes applied to the skin to promote healing of burns and wounds. Some proponents claim that topically applied hyaluronic acid can help reverse signs of aging in the skin.
Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of using hyaluronic acid supplements. However, it's important to note that self-treating a chronic health condition with hyaluronic acid supplements, and avoiding or delaying standard care, may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of hyaluronic acid supplements in treatment of a chronic condition, be sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.
Where To Find Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
Widely available for purchase online, hyaluronic acid supplements can be found in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.
Baker JF, Solayar GN, Byrne DP, Moran R, Mulhall KJ. "Analgesic control and functional outcome after knee arthroscopy: results of a randomized double-blinded trial comparing a hyaluronic acid supplement with bupivacaine." Clin J Sport Med. 2012 Mar;22(2):109-15.
Manfredini D, Piccotti F, Guarda-Nardini L. "Hyaluronic acid in the treatment of TMJ disorders: a systematic review of the literature." Cranio. 2010 Jul;28(3):166-76.
Moskowitz RW. "Hyaluronic acid supplementation." Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2000 Dec;2(6):466-71.