High Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid
We all know that a human joint lacking proper lubrication or with minimal joint fluid will invariably allow articulating (joint) bones to rub directly on top of each other causing long-term damage to the cartilage. In the body, hyaluronic acid most commonly presents itself as a large, high molecular weight hyaluronic acid molecule. It is critical to its function to be a large molecule. The molecule is made up of a repetitive sequence of two modified simple sugars—glucuronic acid and N acetyl glucosamine. When these compounds come together, they are both negatively charged and repel, causing the long molecule to stretch out naturally. A long, rope-like molecule has far more water binding capacity. Molecules that are long and stretched out often give a high viscosity, which can resist compression of the joint. HMW Hyaluronic Acid is a common type of Hyaluronic Acid used in research as it closely resembles the majority of naturally occurring Hyaluronic Acid in the joint structure. When the HA molecule breaks into small pieces, the short rope like pieces lose their ability to bind to water and create the cushiony joint fluid.
Less Body Cushioning
LMW Hyaluronic Acid does not typically have the surface area for binding to water and thus proper lubrication is harder to achieve. HMW Hyaluronic Acid typically weighs up to 5 times that of LMW Hyaluronic Acid —a significant difference. LMW Hyaluronic Acid in the body is generally compromised and is not as successful at providing cushion, hydration and transfer of nutrients.
The difference can be seen in these clear tube images. The first tube is filled with a liquid form of low molecular weight (LMW) HA. When the tube is turned upside down, the blue marble located inside quickly moves from one end of the tube to the other. It takes approximately 5 seconds for this to occur. The LMW HA solution does not have enough viscosity to cushion the fall of the blue marble.
More Body Cushioning
The second clear tube is filled with solution of high molecular weight (HMW) HA. The orange marble inside is well protected and cushioned. The long and highly viscous HA molecule creates a very thick gel like solution which cushions and provides shock absorption for the orange marble at the bottom of the tube. When this tube is turned upside down, the orange marble slowly moves from one end of the tube to the other and takes approximately 30 to 45 seconds to drop all the way. The marble is gently laid at the bottom of the fall.
When shopping for HA either as a dietary supplement or a topical, be sure to choose animal-free, HMW HA. Natural Fermentation is the most common non-animal source of Hyaluronic Acid. It’s non-GMO and vegan friendly. It’s most commonly used for medically administered joint and skin HA injections.