Nattokinase is an enzyme extracted and purified from a Japanese food called Natto. It is made by fermentation, using the bacteria Bacillus natto which is added to boiled soybeans. The bacteria produce the enzyme nattokinase to digest the substrate (soybeans), which is specific to this bacterial species.
Cultures of Bacillus subtilis (the Japanese name for natto) were popular long before the introduction of antibiotics and were used to stimulate the immune system to help treat gastrointestinal and urinary tract disease. Since the 1950’s it has been used in the health industry to stimulate broad spectrum immune activity and stimulating IgM, IgG, and IgA antibodies in particular.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in North America. Control and management of the disease is somewhat limited and eating Natto has been linked to reduced mortality in relation to this disease. New research has shown that the enzyme nattokinase has potent fibrinolytic activity, antihypertensive, antiortherosclerotic and lipid lowering, antiplatelet and neuroprotective effects, “Biomark Insights 2018”.
Fibrin is an insoluble protein formed from fibrinogen during the clotting of blood. It forms a fibrous mesh that impedes the flow of blood by creating a blood clot. The human body has several enzymes for making blood clots, but only one enzyme to dissolve them known as plasmin. Unfortunately as we age plasmin decreases making humans more prone to blood clotting. On the other hand fibrinogen levels rise as we age and this produces increased “sticky” platelets in the blood possibly causing clots leading to a heart attack or a stroke.
In 1980 at Chicago University Medical School, a researcher named Hiroyuki Sumi was investigating clot busting drugs and placed some natto in a petri dish with a blood clot. Within eighteen hours the clot had dissolved – that being much less time than it took for the conventional drugs to dissolve the clot. More studies have shown that nattokinase dissolves the excess fibrin in blood vessels improving circulation and reducing the risk of clotting. It also showed an increase in good cholesterol and a decrease in the viscosity of blood thus improving blood flow and so lowering blood pressure. It was also associated with decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure. “Integr blood pressure control 2016 October 13”
The benefits of nattokinase are not limited to the cardio vascular system. Excess fibrin formation is a feature of many other health conditions. Researchers at Fukai University in Japan have been studying its involvement in nasal polyps and asthma sufferers. Results show that the nasal polyp tissue was effectively shrunken by the degradation of the fibrin.
Problems arise in the respiratory system if the mucus that is secreted is too thick and viscous. It causes inflammation, blocked airways, polyp formation and difficulty breathing. The study showed that nattokinase improved the quality of the mucus making it less viscous hence reducing the inflammation, reducing polyp formation and allowed for easier breathing. It was concluded that nattokinase may be an effective option for patients with chronic rhinosinusitis and asthma by causing the breakdown of fibrin.
An interesting study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009 Vol57 Issue 2 investigated the buildup of plaque from beta-amyloid deposits is associated with increased damage to the brain cells and their death from oxidative stress. This possibly can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and the loss of cognitive function which affects over thirteen million people.
A study of the effects of nattokinase conducted by researchers of Taiwan’s Institute of Biological Chemistry investigated three types of fibrils namely those linked to Alzheimer’s, insulin fibrils linked to diabetes and prion peptide fibrils responsible for prion disease, which is a neurodegenerative disease. Results showed that nattokinase was able to degrade all three types of amyloidal fibrils. It has been theorized that the nattokinase ability to dissolve branched fibrin might be effective in a range of disorders in which hyper coagulation is involved, including infertility, varicose veins, migraines, hemorrhoids as well as effects on the cardio vascular system and strokes. In relation to Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and IBS, it can help where chronic infection produces anti- bodies that cross react with endothelial cells resulting in fibrin being deposited by the body, which causes localized lack of adequate blood supply to the muscles and tissues, and also oxygen deficiency in the tissues.
In view of all this it may be that we are seeing many ageing diseases and chronic conditions as a result of chronic coagulation and not just “old age”. Clotting is a key factor that has been overlooked in cases of chronic illness and with nattokinase as an effective way to reverse it; we may look forward to preventing and treating a wide variety of “ageing” problems.
Written Bt: Nathalie McNeill, Fountain Head Health Food Store