What Is Hyaluronan and How Does it Benefit an Active Body?
What Is Hyaluronan?
Hyaluronan (hyaluronic acid or HA) is found ubiquitously throughout the body in all mammals. It is either directly or indirectly involved in every physiological function and found in dense concentrations in cartilage, synovial fluid, skin, vertebral discs, bones, urinary tract, eyes, and various other soft tissues.
BONE AND JOINT HEALTH
Hyaluronan is naturally synthesized by synoviocytes within the joint and once produced, it binds to collagen and elastin to form articular cartilage. The presence of hyaluronan makes cartilage strong enough to handle compressive forces within the joint. Hyaluronan is also found in unbound form in the synovial fluid, where it provides the major source of lubrication that allows for smooth movements in joints.
Hyaluronan within the synovial capsule is critical for optimal and pain-free joint movement. Articular cartilage encapsulates the ends of bones forming a smooth surface while synovial fluid forms a film of lubrication over the articular cartilage during movement. Combined, these structures protect the bones from frictional grinding.
Within bone itself, the presence of hyaluronan is primarily linked to its roles in bone modeling and remodeling processes. Hyaluronan regulates bone remodeling by stimulating osteoblasts and osteocytes as well as inhibiting osteoclasts. Intriguingly, hyaluronan taken orally has been shown to reduce urinary markers of bone resorption and ovariectomy-induced bone loss, indicating that hyaluronan may suppress bone resorption.
One of the primary functions of hyaluronan is maintaining tissue hydration. The ubiquitous nature of the molecule ensures that hydrophilic delivery takes place throughout all tissues.
Hyaluronan is found most prevalently in the skin; approximately half of total body hyaluronan is located within the dermal and epidermal layers. Primary functions of hyaluronan in the skin include moisturization and hydration. With age, there is a distinct decrease in the percent composition of hyaluronan in epidermal tissue likely correlating with the increase in wrinkles and aged skin. Experiments have demonstrated that 77% of naturally occurring hyaluronan in the skin is lost by the age of 70 in humans.
Hyaluronan makes up a large part of the vitreous humor (the space-filling jelly between the lens and the retina) and is also found in the lacrimal gland, cornea, conjunctiva, and in tears. Ocular functions of hyaluronan include homeostasis and lubrication.
Hyaluronan has established itself as a protectant by its ability to confer defense to gut mucosal tissue. A recent study aimed to evaluate the effects of hyaluronan on gastric mucosa. Laboratory findings reveal that a high-molecular-weight hyaluronan-containing gel significantly protect the gastric mucosa.
OTHER KNOWN BENEFITS
Hyaluronan is a critical molecule for proper structure and function of the urinary tract, serving as a protective barrier for its lining. Disruption of this barrier is believed to be a causative factor for interstitial cystitis. In the kidneys, hyaluronan is largely responsible for body fluid regulation. The hydrophilic nature of hyaluronan contributes to its ability to regulate urinary excretion, as it acts as a mechanical support for renal tubules and blood vessels in the medulla.
Oral hyaluronan supplements remain mostly controversial as to their efficacy and ability to be absorbed, due to lack of research to substantiate product efficacy and sub-standard ingredients. Oral supplementation is preferential to injectable products and other routes of administration because it eliminates the risk of adverse reactions, is more convenient, and more cost effective.
Oral hyaluronan, like that found in the Baxyl® family of products, has been shown to be absorbed and effective. Recent clinical studies are consistent with these laboratory findings and studies with radiolabeled high-molecular-weight hyaluronan after oral administration show distribution to the joints in as little as four hours post-administration.
Baxyl hyaluronan supplements have been developed in liquid formulations because of the very nature of hyaluronan itself. Hyaluronan is among nature’s most water-loving molecules. When dry and exposed to moisture, hyaluronan slowly absorbs up to 1000 times its weight in water, creating a thick, viscous fluid. If consumed dry as a tablet, the transit time from ingestion to excretion does not provide the necessary time for hydration of this incredibly hydrophilic molecule. Research indicates that little of the high molecular weight dry forms are absorbed before excretion. A study performed with Baxyl’s patented, liquid MHB3® Hyaluronan shows it significantly outperformed dry, tableted dosage forms of HA.
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