New Research Shows How Oral Supplements Can Affect Skin

High molecular weight hyaluronan from oral supplements does reach skin and joint tissues, supporting a role for the compound in such products, says a new study. “This report presents the first evidence for uptake and distribution to connective tissues of orally administered, high-molecular weight HA (hyaluronan),” wrote the researchers in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The international team of researchers report that, despite widespread use of the ingredient in dietary supplements, no report in the literature previously existed confirming that oral HA intake leads to absorption or uptake.

HA is similar to the synovial fluid that surrounds your joints and acts as a lubricant and shock absorber. It is typically injected into the joints but has become popular as a nutraceutical competing with the likes of chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine as non-pharmaceutical or surgical means to deal with joint discomfort. HA is also increasingly being used as a cosmeceutical ingredient with some reports that it may deliver skin benefits.

The new study used Fenchem Biotek’s HyaMax HA ingredient. The Chinese company claims to hold 40% of the U.S. HA market, with the overall market reportedly growing at 15%.

Study details

The researchers, led by Alexander Schauss from the American Institute for Biosocial and Medical Research in Washington, in collaboration with scientists from Hungary's Fodor Jozsef National Center of Health, FenChem Biotek, and Salt Lake City-based Schiff Nutrition Group, used radioactively-labelled HA and fed a single dose to rats and beagles. Radioactive technetium was used to label the HA, while radioactive technetium pertechnetate was used as the control.

Ingestion of the HA by the rats showed that 87-96% of the radioactivity was recovered, with the majority in the faeces. All of the tissues studied did show incorporation the radioactive HA. Incorporation was observed 15 minutes after ingestion, and persisted for 48 hours, added the researchers. Moreover, after 24 hours, skin, bone and joint tissues all showed an incorporation of the radioactive HA. However, no radioactivity was detected in the skin, bone and joint tissues of the animals when radioactive technetium pertechnetate was used.

“HA is known to have an affinity for connective tissues, and these tissues exhibited accumulation of radioactivity throughout the study period from [radioactively-labelled HA], but not after [radioactive technetium pertechnetate],” wrote the researchers. “Overall, the findings suggest that a small amount of orally administered HA was absorbed into systemic circulation and taken up by connective tissues.”

Take-home message

“These findings support reports of biological actions seen after oral administration of high-molecular-weight HA in animal and human studies,” wrote the researchers. “Thus, a rationale for inclusion of HA in dietary supplement products designed for joint and skin health exists,” they concluded.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, published online ahead of print, ASAP Article, doi: “Absorption, Uptake and Tissue Affinity of High-Molecular-Weight Hyaluronan after Oral Administration in Rats and Dogs.” Authors: L. Balogh, A. Polyak, D. Mathe, R. Kiraly, J. Thuroczy, M. Terez, G. Janoki, Y. Ting, L.R. Bucci, and A.G. Schaus., November 25, 2008

More in Physiology