Marinho 2021

Via Creative Commons License 4.0

It comes as a surprise to many people that all fibers—insoluble, soluble, prebiotic, etc.—are polymers (chains) of sugar molecules. Inulin fiber, for instance, that has prebiotic properties (i.e., it is metabolized by gut microbes) is a polymer of fructose molecules, while galactooligosaccharides from legumes and root vegetables are polymers of galactose molecules. Other fibers contain mixtures of different sugars. Glucomannan, for example, in konjac and shirataki noodles, is a mixture of glucose and mannose sugars.

Humans lack the digestive enzymes to break down the bonds between sugars in fibers. Bacteria residing in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract do have the necessary enzymes, however. It is an example of a wonderful symbiosis: We can ingest fibers but we cannot digest them, but bacteria can. They rely on us to ingest foods that contain fibers and, in turn, generate metabolites with substantial health benefits for the human host. Benefits of microbial metabolites created from fiber are significant and include nourishing intestinal cells, modulating insulin and blood sugar levels, and helping maintain mental and emotional health.

Hyaluronic acid is also a fiber, a polymer of two sugars, glucuronic acid and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine, that repeat over and over in a chain. Many females are familiar with hyaluronic acid because they apply it topically as “serums” or other products to moisturize and smooth skin. Most people, however, dismiss hyaluronic acid as nothing more. But there is plenty more to the hyaluronic acid story and human health.

Much of hyaluronic acid’s benefit in the body is due to its exceptional capacity to bind water molecules, providing moisture, lubrication, and a medium for immune system mediators to provide protection. While hyaluronic acid is produced by multiple organs throughout the body, humans are also meant to obtain hyaluronic acid from diet. Problem: the last 40 years of focus wasted on reducing saturated fat and cholesterol intake made many people, as well as dietary “authorities,” shun foods that provide plentiful hyaluronic acid. Among the animal sources (there are no plant sources) of hyaluronic acid are skin, joints, brain, uterus, with lesser amounts in stomach, intestines, and muscle. Skin and brain are especially rich sources with about 7 milligrams in a 4-ounce serving of, say, lamb brain.

Ingesting greater quantities of hyaluronic acid has been demonstrated to:

  • Increase joint lubrication—The synovial fluid in your joints such as knees and hips is increased by ingesting more hyaluronic acid, thereby protecting joint cartilage and preventing arthritis.
  • Prevent deterioration of vision-–The eyes are rich in hyaluronic acid. Getting more hyaluronic acid thereby helps lubricate and plump up eye tissue.
  • Increase skin moisture—Hyaluronic acid increases the hyaluronic acid content of the dermal layer of skin, just below the epidermis. The hyaluronic acid ladies apply to the surface provides a temporary effect—the skin is no more healthier, nor is the rest of your body. Ingesting hyaluronic acid actually improves skin health and the health of other organs.
  • Improved skin wound healing—Because of its important role in skin health, orally consumed hyaluronic acid assists in skin healing.
  • Increase vaginal moisture—Vaginal atrophy and dryness plague many females, especially as they proceed through menopause and onwards. By a woman’s late 60s and 70s, vaginal atrophy and dryness become ubiquitous, nearly universal. The uterus, cervix, and vagina are made up largely of hyaluronic acid. Getting more hyaluronic acid may therefore provide an advantage. To date, only topical hyaluronic acid has been studied, not oral consumption. But given the widespread moisturizing effects of hyaluronic acid ingestion, a vaginal moisture effect is likely. And, of course, there is no downside, since you are simply augmenting a naturally occurring compound.
  • Cause a bloom of butyrate-producing species in bowel flora—Hyaluronic acid increases populations of Akkermansia, Faecalibacterium, and Bifidobacteria, species that produce the beneficial fatty acid butyrate that yields many important physiological effects. When Akkermansia blooms, for instance, it yields substantial benefits to the human host such as reduced insulin resistance and HbA1c, encouraging production if GI mucus, and supports the proliferation of other healthy bowel flora species. (Recall that overgrowth of Akkermansia can occur when you deprive it of fibers, as occurs in some people following ketogenic, carnivorous, or low-FODMAPs diets, but does not occur with hyaluronic acid, inulin, or oleic acid consumption, i.e., other dietary factors that nourish Akkermansia, in the diet.)

Although preliminary, there may also be strategies that we can adopt that cultivate microbial species, such as selected Streptococcal species and strains, that take up residence in the GI tract and produce hyaluronic acid for us—stay tuned as this insight unfolds.

The failure to ingest hyaluronic acid-rich sources such as brain and skin is yet another lesson learned from the blunders of cutting dietary fat. Add this mistake on top of advocating the consumption of wheat and grains that cause extravagant weight gain and type 2 diabetes, low-fat products rich in high-fructose corn syrup or sugars, and “everything in moderation.” Correct these blunders by adding back sources of hyaluronic acid such as skin or soups and broths made with the bones and carcass of animals or supplement it as capsules or powders.