Eyes on Hyaluronic Acid

by Becky Thatcher

One of the hottest ingredients in the natural products industry today is hyaluronic acid. HA, as it is known, has been a hot seller ever since ABC reported on ‘‘The Village of Long Life,” where residents of Yuzuri Hara live into their nineties with great flexibility, good skin, vision, and vitality.

The key element for their ocular and joint health is a diet that is rich in native sweet and white tubers and other root vegetables that are loaded with hyaluronic acid precursors, said the ABC reporter.

“The residents of Yuzuri Hara are not only living longer, but they are also quite healthy,” notes ABC News in its report. “Rarely do they have any reason to see a doctor, and they are hardly affected by diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Many have even managed to keep their skin from showing signs of aging. One of Japan’s leading pharmaceutical companies began researching and developing a pill supplement containing hyaluronic acid. The company tested the capsules on 1,000 people, and said roughly half reported smoother skin, less fatigue and better eyesight.”

Since then, a number of products containing hyaluronic acid have been credited with helping to restore joint flexibility, improving skin condition through moisturizing and other regenerative effects and also maintaining the healthy condition of eyes.

So what is HA? Hyaluronic acid cushions your joints. It’s what enables your eyes to retain their moisture and helps your knees glide. But as we age, like everything else, the body’s production of HA changes and usually declines. Doctors have found that injections of HA work quite well when injected into troubled spots such as the knees. However, non-animal oral HA is also known to be well absorbed and to be distributed throughout the body. Preliminary studies are backing up what we believe to be the reason the Japanese villagers enjoy excellent vision.

With HA being the key component in the fluid inside the eye, such products are a welcome line-up in the wake of the natural decline of this fluid as we age and the possible onset of various problems as a result of this loss. Recent medical studies have focused on the role of HA in the application of it to everything from dry eyes to the post-surgery healing of corneal tissue. According to the ABC report, it has been commonly used in surgery as a “shock absorber” to help protect the retina. And given the fluid losses and atrophy related to glaucoma, a natural supplement to the HA produced by our bodies may help to prevent some of the problems that lead to such diseases. (However, it should be distinctly noted that HA sold in health food stores as a dietary supplement cannot be legally claimed to cure or treat any disease and it should only be used to support already healthy cell functions.)

Doctors from both the Rabin Medical Center in Israel and Tokyo’s Keio University School of Medicine found evidence in their studies that the presence of HA, specifically sodium hyaluronate, was instrumental in both the maintenance of the corneal tissue and in the quality of the healing of this tissue when damaged. Another study conducted by the Contact Lens and Anterior Eye Research Group, Al Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences in the United Kingdom, found that HA is just as effective as saline in eye drops in the care of dry eyes.