Mixed microbes

I’ve discussed the issue of hyaluronic acid previously, what I call a “miracle nutrient” because of its many varied benefits, a list of benefits that is expanding rapidly. While many people are familiar with hyaluronic acid as a topical agent, applying it to skin does not yield the full range of benefits, but simply provides superficial moisture that is quickly washed away and yields none of the potential dermal, joint, or metabolic benefits. It would be like waxing your automobile and expecting it to run better as a result—it does not. Ingested orally, numerous benefits develop with hyaluronic acid. And, given the evidence, we can add effects on “molding” the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome to the list.

Hyaluronic acid is a nutrient that is largely absent from the modern American diet, given our aversion to organ meats, skin, and boiling the carcasses of animals that releases components of connective tissue. (Can you think of anything more misinformed than boneless, skinless chicken breast?) The lack of dietary hyaluronic acid is yet another mistake prompted by harmful dietary advice such as “cut your fat and saturated fat,” eat more “healthy whole grains,” “everything in moderation,” coupled with the proliferation of processed convenience foods and predatory marketing practices of Big Food.

Hyaluronic acid is a ubiquitous component of the body, an important factor in joint lubrication, eyes, arteries, heart valves, brain, uterus, prostate, and skin. Failure to take in hyaluronic acid therefore has potential consequences in all these organs. In arteries, for example, we could expect acceleration of wall stiffness with aging, or loss of moisture and flexibility in the skin with accelerated development of skin dryness, loss of flexibility, and wrinkles. Conversely, emerging evidence suggests that increased oral intake of hyaluronic acid reverses loss of skin moisture and reduces joint pain in people with osteoarthritis.

The length of the hyaluronic acid molecule varies widely, a phenomenon that has prompted debate over what size of the molecule is ideal for absorption. However, it is becoming clear that only some hyaluronic acid is degraded by human hyaluronidase enzymes and that a major portion of ingested hyaluronic acid is broken down into smaller fragments by microbes resident in the colon (and small intestine?) that are then absorbed and arrive intact in various organs.

Experimental evidence also suggests that hyaluronic acid ingestion provokes a substantial bloom in several microbial species in the gastrointestinal tract, specifically Akkermansia muciniphila and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii that, in turn, increase production of protective intestinal mucus and antimicrobial peptides, major factors in intestinal health and immunity. Further, production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids, including butyrate, is substantially increased. This last effect, the increased production of short-chain fatty acids, also leads to systemic benefits such as reduced blood sugar and blood pressure, reduced blood triglycerides and fatty liver, improved sleep and mood. Bifidobacteria and Bacteroides species also proliferate in the presence of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid also increases protection from intestinal pathogens.

Skin, joint, arteries, metabolic and mental health are therefore all impacted by hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid was meant to be a component of diet and ingested and metabolized by gut microbes to experience the full range of benefits. The ideal quantity of hyaluronic acid is not yet clear, but skin  benefits have been documented with intakes of 120 mg per day, higher doses of 200-240 mg per day for joint health. Or, of course, you could include more skin, organs, and broths/soups made by boiling the remains of meats you buy.