Hyaluronic acid (HA) came to media attention when ABC News Reporter Connie Chung visited the Japanese village of Yuzurihara. The local villagers in their 80s and 90s were living longer, were agile and active, and had noticeably smooth youthful looking skin. The conclusion of the report was that the diet of sticky vegetables eaten by the villagers enabled their bodies to make more hyaluronic acid, which kept their skin wrinkle-free, eliminated hair loss and maintained their eyesight. These villagers also led an active well-balanced lifestyle despite their years. To have the same success, we need to know what hyaluronic acid actually is, and how it can help keep skin smooth and youthful.

What is Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid, also called hyaluronan, is a biopolymer that occurs naturally in humans. It is found mainly in the vitreous humor of the eye and is needed to cushion and lubricate joints, heart valves and skin. It is frequently dubbed "the fountain of youth" as those who produce more of it seem to live longer and have noticeably youthful skin.

Hyaluronic acid promotes the production of collagen, which helps keep the skin firm and elastic. In contrast, hyaluronidase is produced by free radicals and UV radiation in the body and leads to a breakdown of collagen. This allows skin to sag and wrinkle over time.

Bioflavonoids found in blueberries, cranberries and grape seed extract reduce free radicals in the body and limit damaging hyaluronidase production. Reducing processed food intake and increasing exercise also boost the levels of HA in our system. By optimizing our hyaluronic acid levels and lowering the presence of hyaluronidase, we may benefit from better joints and avoid typical outward signs of aging.

Taking HA as a Supplement or in the Diet

The Japanese villagers actually had a diet high in estrogen-like molecules from fermented soy in the miso paste and tofu. They also ate many starchy vegetables such as satsumaimo, a type of sweet potato; satoimo, a sticky white potato; imojo, a root vegetable; and konyyaku, a gelatinous root vegetable mixture. These vegetables are known to promote the production of collagen, which keeps skin moist and supple.

The main natural source of hyaluronic acid is rooster combs and supplements are generally produced from this source. The easiest way to increase your intake of HA is by adding hyaluronic acid capsules to your daily regimen of supplements.

Taking HA Topically as a Cream

Many pharmaceutical companies are now offering creams containing hyaluronic acid, which can be applied to the face, neck and body. The HA is thought to boost moisture content in the skin, keeping it supple, moist and less prone to wrinkles.

Taking HA by Injection

In order to apply hyaluronic acid to specific parts of the body, injections have become more popular as a beauty therapy. It is used to treat and prevent fine lines and wrinkles; however there is a risk that such concentrated application may cause an imbalance in the chemical composition of the skin.

Some known side effects of hyaluronic acid injection therapy include localized swelling, itching, redness, infection, lumps and tissue hardening. These may be serious enough to make you reconsider the use of injection therapy - after all the Japanese villagers obtained their youthful benefits purely through diet, not through artificial injections. By following their example, perhaps the best way to get the full benefits of hyaluronic acid without any complications or risks is by taking a holistic approach.

Concentrate on a diet of unprocessed foods including starchy root vegetables topped up with a natural supplement and a face cream containing hyaluronic acid. Make sure you enjoy some physical activity on a regular basis and maintain a balanced mindset and lifestyle, just like those Japanese villagers!