Health Benefits of Nattokinase

What do studies say about Nattokinase?


Health Benefits of Nattokinase

Nattokinase and Blood Clots

Nattokinase and Fibroids

Nattokinase Side Effects

Nattokinase Dosage

Nattokinase Supplements

Nattokinase, or natto extract, is the enzyme that is extracted from natto, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans: the beneficial bacterium Bacillis natto (which lives in rice straw) is added to boiled soybeans, creating a substance that looks like cheese, with a strong, distinct odor and a sticky consistency. As a soy product, natto is similar to miso; however, only natto contains the enzyme nattokinase. Nattokinase is a tough enzyme: it can withstand temperatures of up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) and remains active even after repeated freezing and thawing, although it becomes inactive in more acidic environments (above 12 pH).

According to legend, natto was discovered by Minamoto no Yoshiie, an 11th-century samurai warrior who packed boiled soybeans in rice straw in order to transport them. However, when he unpacked the beans, he discovered that they had fermented. Minamoto no Yoshiie thought the beans were spoiled until his horses--normally picky eaters--ate them. From this, he inferred that the soybean mixture, natto, was edible.


Today, natto is made in factories in which precise amounts of Bacillis natto are sprayed on steamed soybeans, which are then transferred to storage containers where they ferment and mature in temperature- and humidity-controlled environments. However, despite changes in the methods of its production, natto is just as nutritious today as it was in feudal Japan. Nevertheless, therapeutic use of natto by alternative medicine practitioners did not occur until the 1980s, when Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi accidentally discovered that the enzyme in natto (nattokinase means literally "natto enzyme") could dissolve blood clots. After conducting several studies to investigate this effect, he began to recommend nattokinase as a blood thinner and for fibrinolysis, the biological process of breaking up blood clots. Because of this property, nattokinase may also play a role in preventing strokes and minimizing the chances of developing heart disease. Indeed, some have pointed to Japan's lower overall incidence of cardiovascular disease as proof that nattokinase can improve circulatory system function.

There have been only a few studies on animals and humans, mostly investigating nattokinase's fibrinolytic properties in order to treat thrombosis, or dangerous blood clots. Also known as a thrombus, a clot is instigated when an aggregation of platelets forms a "platelet plug" during the activation of the humoral coagulation (blood clotting) system--typically caused by any injury that ruptures blood vessel walls. This process causes fibrinogen, an inert protein, to be transformed into a fibrin, a molecule that forms long threads that gather around the platelet plug and catch more platelets and red blood cells in a process not unlike that of a spider catching insects by building a web. The platelets and red blood cells help to form the clot, thus preventing fatal blood loss. While clots that occur in the course of a minor injury (such as a cut or wound) are generally benign, other clots can be life-threatening or even fatal. Clots become dangerous when they grow so big that they block the blood vessel and cut off circulation. Such clots are usually caused not by an injury but by an abnormal lack of plasmin—an enzyme produced by the body that breaks up clots by dissolving fibrin. Decreases in plasmin occur naturally with age, even as our fibrinogen levels increase. This means that over time our bodies create fewer anticoagulants even as we become more prone to clots. Such clots can come in the form of arterial thrombosis, such as stroke or myocardial infarction (heart attack), or venous thrombosis, such as DVT or deep vein thrombosis. Any of these, in severe cases, can lead to substantial cell and tissue death, if not actual death.


Nattokinase may also have the ability to lower blood pressure by inhibiting angiotensin converting enzyme, or ACE. ACE-inhibitors, of which nattokinase is but one, reverse the effects of ACE, which includes narrowing of the blood vessels and elevated blood pressure. Nattokinase also plays a role in improving circulation and prevents the hardening of the arteries, making it a useful tool in the prevention of heart disease.

Nattokinase has also received attention for its potential to reduce or remove uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids (also called myoma, fibroma, and fibromyoma) are non-cancerous tumors that form in the uterus. Fibroids are fairly common in middle-aged premenopausal women and are not generally considered dangerous. However, uterine fibroids can cause a great deal of discomfort. Some symptoms of fibroids are heavy or painful menstruation, pain during sexual intercourse, and urinary problems. Fibroids can also cause infertility. Nattokinase is thought to work by dissolving uterine fibroids (which are made of fibrin) in the way that it dissolves fibrin in other parts of the body.

In addition, nattokinase is thought to increase bone density, alleviate joint and muscle pain, and even aid in the control of migraines. Ancient Japanese tradition holds that natto was often eaten in order to prevent typhoid, cholera, and dysentery; while no current research studies have been done to investigate the efficacy of this traditional application, natto’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties might well have played a role in keeping those who ate it free from infectious diseases.

Nattokinase may also aid in the prevention of senile dementia, as thrombotic clogging of the cerebral blood vessels has been identified as a factor in the incidence of this condition. Similar thrombotic conditions occurring in the brain include cerebral hemorrhage and cerebral infarction. Thrombotic conditions focusing on the heart include cardiac infarction (heart attack) and angina pectoris (chest pain caused by coronary heart disease). As nattokinase’s clot-dissolving properties are not limited to a particular region of the body, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be able to break up blood clots in the brain as well as in other areas.

However, as has been previously stated, there exists at present very little scientific evidence of nattokinase’s efficacy in treating or curing any medical condition. While some small, short-term studies involving human and animal subjects have reported some promising findings, such findings are not conclusive. More research, particularly long-term, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are required to determine the potential health benefits of nattokinase. As such, nattokinase has also not been approved by FDA for medical use. Therefore, it is important to be cautious when evaluating the claims of supplement manufacturers and, whenever possible, to consult a doctor before beginning any therapeutic regimen of nattokinase.

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