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
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
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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