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Oral Hyaluronic Acid Products
Weighing The Differences

by Jim Titus

While injectable hyaluronic acid (HA) is the industry standard, many spa-goers recently have noticed HA is readily available in an oral form in health food stores and pharmacies. Some publications in the dietary supplement industry now have placed oral HA in the top 20 in supplement sales.

The history of HA in an oral form is relatively short. It is believed to have first been used by a veterinarian working to improve the flexibility of his horse’s joints. Oral HA is widely used today by trainers, veterinarians and humans alike. It is now finding a home not only as an oral product for human joint health but also as an anti-aging and “beauty from within” product.

Oral HA is available in two forms on the market: lower molecular weight (LMW), mainly from ground chicken comb, and higher molecular weight (HMW), usually from a bacterial fermentation process. Because the body’s articulating joints and skin use HMW HA for lubrication, the two sources deliver this in similar, but different ways. Per much debated theory, the body more readily digests and absorbs LMW HA, as it is the smaller building block of HMW HA.

Yet all things being equal, the body should put the absorbed LMW HA pieces together to assemble sufficient amounts of HMW HA for the body to use. Therefore, the challenge is not with absorption but with assembly. In the case of HMW HA, which is in the form the body uses, the only challenge would be in its initial passage through the absorption sites, due to its molecular size. Amazingly, the shape of HMW HA helps make up for its drawback in size, as its long-chain molecular configuration allows it to pass its large mass through the intestinal wall. Once HMW HA becomes available to the body, it then is distributed to locations including the joints, skin, hair and eyes.

What’s In A Label?

HA labels may be confusing to read, with regard to HA content. Suppliers of collagen and LMW HA tend to either calculate collagen and chicken comb content as equal to HA, or use a mathematical equation to calculate how much of their delivered LMW HA particles should metabolize into HMW HA after digestion. This equation tends to result in very high milligram amounts, such as 40 mg or 125 mg.

There is some confusion and lagging consensus in the industry on what really is the standard equation and whether the calculation is uniform, accurate or consistent from supplier to supplier. While the label and bioavailability claims for LMW HA products can be hindering, this is the slightly cheaper of the two HA weights.

Conversely, there is no calculation for HMW HA products, as they simply deliver an exact amount of HMW HA that is stated on the label. Unlike on LMW HA labels, the HMW labels tend to feature lower delivery levels such as 2 mg or 3 mg. Despite their differences, both HA product types readily sell in the market and boast beneficial results within one to two weeks.

Jim Titus is a dietary supplement consultant specializing in the natural products industry. He is the president of Accelco International, Inc., a member of the Consultants Association for the Natural Products Industry (CANI). Titus has worked with Hyalogic LLC, a supplier to the spa industry.

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