HOW TO LIVE 100 YEARS WITHOUT GROWING OLD Hyaluronic Acid: Natures Healing Agent, book started with a documentary television report. ABC News reporter Connie Chung visited the Japanese village of Yuzurihara to find out why the people there were living so long yet looking so young. The TV report, aired in November of 2000, showed men and women in their 80s and 90s with smooth wrinkle-less skin, flexible joints, full heads of hair, and activity levels that defied their age. Most villagers were still active farming in family gardens that every villager tends. What to make of this? I flew to Japan to find out.

The Yuzurihara phenomenon is about a little-known molecule called hyaluronic acid. Why should such a pervasive molecule in the human body be so obscure? Hyaluronic acid is a gel-like, water-holding molecule that is the space filler and cushioning agent in all mammals. HA cushions joints, nerves, hydrates skin and hair, and fills the eye. The HA molecule is a long disaccharide, that is a sugar-like molecule, with two-molecules holding hands – glucosamine and glucuronic acid. It is the very molecule that makes humans look young.

A visit to Yuzurihara is like visiting a hidden valley where the dinosaurs are still alive. When I re-visited this past summer of 2004 I met people like Mr. Ishii, an 83-year old man who still rides his motorcycle to transport fresh vegetables he grows to the local open-air market. Most octogenarians in America are in nursing homes or slowly losing their memory. Not in Yuzurihara. For the most part, villagers there aren’t plagued with arthritis as most aged Americans are. Many of them don’t even need reading glasses. Their voices don’t sound old and guttural. What is their secret of youth?

ABC news had to guess. They surmised it was the sticky vegetables in their diet. But my visit didn’t find that to be a factor. It was the estrogen-like molecules in their diet, fermented forms of soy in miso paste and tofu. These molecules, along with natural estrogen, send a signal for fibroblast cells to make more hyaluronic acid. The Japanese as a population have thicker hair, smoother skin, and exhibit fewer visible signs of aging because of this.

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