August 21, 2013 at 4:53 PM
When we talk about natural enzymes as alternative medicine, nattokinase is always there! Unfortunately, today not many people are aware of the numerous benefits natural enzymes offer. Nattokinase is no exception. Even though the food ‘natto’ has been used for centuries in Japan, its health benefits are still unclear to people around the globe. So, what is exactly is nattokinase and what does natto have to do with it? What benefits does nattokinase offer? How is it made? Is it safe? These are some common questions you get to hear when you tell people about nattokinase. In this very context, this research paper is intended towards giving you a deep understanding of what this enzyme is, how it is produced and how it can benefit you.
A Brief Overview:
Natto, the food, has been consumed in Africa and Asia for centuries. It is slippery to touch and has a strong aroma to it. Natto is fine to taste in fact it is quite tasteless due to which most Americans avoid it. The food is made from fermenting soybeans and is native to Japan. Now, nattokinase is an enzyme which is isolated from this food. Because natto is not considered tasty, the enzyme is extracted from it and sold as a dietary supplement. If you can’t have natto you can at least avail the benefits it has to offer through consuming nattokinase dietary supplements (1).
How Was It Discovered?
Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi, a researcher of the University of Chicago, was the first one to discover this enzyme. Through his experiments he found out that by adding bacterium Bacillus to steamed or boiled soybeans and letting it ferment, the enzyme is produced. Even though numerous experiments were conducted by Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi and others, the mechanism of action of this enzyme is still unknown.
Later on, in ‘Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database’ it was published that this enzyme shows strong fibrinolytic activity. The process through which fibrous proteins are broken down into pieces and are then finally cleared by the liver and the kidneys is referred to as ‘fibrinolysis’. Fibrous proteins are the ones that develop or contribute to blood clots and therefore they are harmful to be present in the body (2).
After years of experimentation and search for a natural thrombolytic agent, Dr. Sumi finally discovered nattokinase. He always had wanted to discover a natural thrombolytic agent that would be capable of dissolving blood clots which are the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke. It was in 1980 when Dr. Sumi conducted his final experiment to find nattokinase. It should be noted that before this last experiment, Dr. Sumi had already conducted 173 over several other foods. It was Dr. Sumi who declared that even though other soy foods have enzymes, the way natto is prepared is what gives birth to nattokinase in it.
The experiment that was conducted by Dr. Sumi was dropping Japanese soy cheese on an artificial fibrin (thrombus to be exact). The fibrin was kept in a petri dish and the temperature was maintained at 37ºC. The reason this temperature was maintained is that it is the normal body temperature and Dr. Sumi wanted to see if t will work under humane conditions or not. Surprisingly, in the next 18 hours, the fibrin was completely dissolved by natto. This was when Dr. Sumi discovered the enzyme and named it Nattokinase. The literal meaning of the term ‘nattokinase’ is ‘enzyme in natto’. He claimed that the potency which natto holds cannot be matched by any other enzyme (3).
More About The Potent Thrombolytic Activity:
Numerous enzymes are produced and developed within the human body to promote the growth of thrombus. However, the only enzyme in the human body that works against it and breaks it down is plasmin. What makes nattokinase so special is that its elements very closely resemble those of plasmin. Dr. Martin Milner from the Center for Natural Medicine in Portland stated that nattokinase is highly effective to break down thrombus. It does so by enhancing the body’s strength to fight against it thus offering a natural way to get rid of thrombus. Also, nattokinase’s similarities with plasmin allow the body to dissolve fibrin directly.
Not only this, Dr. Martin Milner also stated that nattokinase helps the body in producing healthier plasmin and other several agents that are capable of dissolving blood clots. One of these agents includes urokinase, also known as endogenous.
Furthermore, Dr. Milner sheds light on the fact that nattokinase, to a certain level, is way more potent than the traditional drugs that are used for dissolving clots. According to him, drugs like T-Pas, which are thought of to be effective, absolutely fail when the clot exceeds their scope of treatment. When the clots completely mature and are hard enough, they can’t be dissolved by these traditional drugs. Nattokinase is the only clot dissolving agent that can dissolve the hardest of all clots by taking it orally. 100 mg a day can dissolve the most solid clots easily. What’s even more important to note here is that unlike most of the clot-dissolving drugs, nattokinase has long term or prolonged effects. This means that even after the patient stops taking nattokinase, the effects will be there for a long period of time. The two major effects that have been found so far that remain there for a while include: preventing clots and dissolving the already existing thrombus. If in doubt, you can always get the levels of FDP (fibrin degradation products) and EFA (euglobulin fibrinolytic activity) checked up to know how long the effects will last. Both of the aforementioned levels rise when the clots are being dissolved.
After measuring the EFA and FDP levels, it was realized that the activity of nattokinase can last for 8 to 12 hours. Moreover, another way of determining the activity of nattokinase is to examine the blood levels of TPA antigen. TPA refers to ‘tissue plasminogen activator). After this administration, it was realized that a flow of TPA was released from the endothelial cells or/and the liver.
Thrombus’ Mechanism and Nattokinase’s Action:
Thrombi, in simple terms ‘blood clots’, are developed when protein fibers (fibrin) collect and build up in blood vessels. These blood clots impede proper blood flow to the muscle tissue in the heart. Now, when the blood flow gets hindered, the provision of oxygen to that tissue is cut off which causes the tissue to die. Angina and heart attacks are the results mostly in such situations. Things can get even worse when these clots move to the brain. Once the clots are in the brain, they can stop the blood and oxygen to reach crucial areas of the bodies which can result in strokes and senility.
Thrombolytic enzymes are produced and developed in the endothelial cells which are there in the blood vessels. When the body becomes old, the development and growth of these enzymes gradually reduces which makes the blood more inclined towards clotting. With this happening, the body becomes more prone towards cerebral infraction, cardiac infarction and a number of other similar situations. Endothelial cells are present throughout the body. They are the in the arteries, veins and in the lymphatic system. This is the reason poor development of thrombolytic enzymes in the body can lead to the growth of thrombotic conditions in any part of the body. Therefore, as the body ages, it becomes more and more important to take care of these issues.
Moreover, in a recent study it was concluded that thrombotic clotting of the cerebral blood vessels in some cases can lead to dementia. Also, it was concluded that 60% of the patients of senile dementia in Japan had developed the condition as a result of thrombus. Diseases that can be developed as a result of thrombus in the body include but are not limited to cerebral infarction, angina pectoris, cerebral hemorrhage and cardiac infarction. In addition, diseases that can be caused by lower flexibility in the blood vessels due to thrombus can cause diabetes and dementia.
Another local thrombotic condition is ‘hemorrhoids’. There are several other thrombotic conditions that are associated with the capillaries and if these diseases are counted as well then the list of diseases caused by thrombus can be a never ending one. In a recent study it was concluded that 30% of all the diseases are associated with thrombus therefore it is a must to find the right cure for it.
Patients who suffer from cardiac infarction have a natural imbalance of thrombolytic enzymes in their bodies. This means that their enzymes are weaker than the blood clotting enzymes in their bodies. When this happens, the patient becomes highly prone towards developing other thrombus related diseases as well. This is where nattokinase steps in. Over the years, research over this enzyme has proved that it has great ability to control such natural imbalances in patients to give them a healthier life. Moreover, nattokinase has no side effects and can have prolonged effects unlike most of the drugs. This enzyme can eliminate fibrin within the vessels and also at the same time activate pro-urokinase (endogenous). With all of this, there’s no denying to the fact that nattokinase is truly a miraculous enzyme (4).
Studies Conducted to Date:
After its discovery, several studies were conducted to test the benefits of nattokinase. However, 17 of these studies were recorded and are available as evidence to nattokinase’s benefits. Out of these 17 studies, 15 were done on animals while 2 were conducted on humans.
The first and the most noticeable study was conducted by Dr. Sumi. Blood clots were induced in dogs (male) by Dr. Sumi and his associates. The dogs were then orally given 4 nattokinase capsules of 250 mg each. After the dogs digested the enzyme their blood vessels were examined by angiograms which are x-rays of the blood vessels. The result was that the dogs which took nattokinase had no blood clots in their blood circulation after 5 hours. On the other hand, dogs those were not given nattokinase and instead were treated with other drugs showed clots even after 18 hours in their blood stream. There were no signs of dissolving found in dogs that were given other drugs.
Another study was conducted by researchers from JCR Pharmaceuticals Co. and Biotechnology Research Laboratories of Kobe, Japan. This study was conducted to examine nattokinase’s ability to break up thrombus present in the carotid arteries of rats. Rats that were given nattokinase recovered 62% of their normal blood flow while rats those were treated with plasmin recovered only 15.8% of their regular blood flow. Hence, this concluded that nattokinase is way more potent in dissolving thrombus than plasmin.
The most prominent human study of nattokinase’s effects was conducted by researchers from the Miyazaki Medical College, JCR Pharmaceuticals and the Oklahoma State University. In this study, 6 Japanese men and 6 Japanese women between the ages of 21 and 55 were taken. All the volunteers were healthy people. All the volunteers were given 200 grams of the food natto prior to breakfasting. Then, their fibrinolytic activities were analyzed through a number of blood plasma tests. It was concluded by the help of these tests that natto gave birth to a strong ability in the bodies to fight against fibrins and dissolve blood clots. ELT tests (tests conducted to analyze the time taken to dissolve blood clots) were performed on the volunteers which dropped by 47% after two hours of the treatment and the volunteers recovered a strong ability to fight and dissolve blood clots in their blood flow for 2 to 8 hours. Later on, the same volunteers were fed with soybeans and their fibrinolytic activities were tracked. However, there were no significant changes found. Several other studies have been conducted with similar results but the aforementioned ones still remain the most prominent ones (4).
Nattokinase for Blood Pressure Issues:
Natto, the food, has been in use in Japan for centuries. Most people think that the use of natto in Japan is due to the benefits it offers for ‘heart-health’ which is true to a certain extent. But, what we don’t know is that natto is also considered highly beneficial to control and lower blood pressure in Japanese traditions. Previously, it was just considered a belief which is now become a scientific fact. Why? Simply because there have been a number of clinical trials and all of them have shown positive results regarding natto’s properties to control and lower blood pressure.
Researchers from the Miyazaki Medical College and the Kurashiki University of Science and Arts in Japan conducted a study in 1995 to analyze the benefits of nattokinase in relation to blood pressure in humans and in animals. The results were positive and it was concluded that indeed nattokinase can control and lower blood pressure levels. Also, the presence of inhibitors of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) was confirmed during this test in the test extract. This enzyme converts angiotensin I to its active form which is angiotensin II. This enzyme causes the blood vessels to narrow down which eventually increase the blood pressure. Nattokinase is effective in suppressing ACE which eventually controls and lowers blood pressure levels.
Male Wister rats were used for an animal study related to nattokinase. The rats were under single intraperitoneal administration of 400 to 450 grams of nattokinase (equal to 25 mg of natto food). It was noted that the systolic blood pressure level (SBP) reduced from 166+mmHg to 145 + 25 mmHg. All of this happened just within two hours. In the next hour, it further reduced to 144+ mmHg. Based on this data it can be easily said that the SBP dropped 12.7% within two hours after the administration.
The same amount of natto extract was tested on people with high blood pressure. A couple of human volunteers with high blood levels were invited. Their blood pressure levels were measured after 30 grams of lyophilized extract, which is equal to 200 grams of natto, was given to them for 4 days in a row. 4 volunteers out of showed a decrease in their systolic blood pressure on an average rate of 173.8 + 20.5 mmHg to 154.8 + 12.6 mmHg. Their diastolic blood pressure decreased on an average rate of 101.0 + 11.4 mmHg to 91.2 + 6.6 mmHg. Based on this data, it can be concluded that the SBP dropped 10.9% and the DBP dropped by 9.7% in human volunteers (4).
In a study published in ‘Hypertension Research’ in 2008, the effects of nattokinase supplements on blood pressure were analyzed. 86 people who were suffering from prehypertension took nattokinase for 8 weeks in a row. When the results were compared to those who took only a placebo, the first group showed a reduction in blood pressure at an average rate of 55.5 mgHg in both DBP and SBP. However, patients who took only the placebo had no reductions (1).
Nattokinase for Cardiovascular Diseases and Conditions:
Probably, cardiovascular health is the area where nattokinase has proven to be the most beneficial. Today, most Americans die because of cardiovascular disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has reported that more than 700,000 people in the USA suffer from strokes. Also, it is reported that strokes are the major causes of disability in the United States. Similarly, the American Heart Association reports that approximately 1 million Americans every year suffer from heart attacks.
Moreover, 700,000 Americans will suffer from heart attacks for the very first time whereas around 500,000 of them will be people who have already suffered from heart attacks. Even though it is a general though that most people in America and globally die of cancer, the reality is that most of them die because of cardiovascular diseases. It’s quite unfortunate to realize the fact that in a country like the United States people suffer from cardiovascular diseases. With the most technologically advanced equipment and healthcare facilities, patients still have to suffer fatal strokes. Why? Well, the answer is pretty simple – most of the Americans are quite negligible when it comes to exercises and eating harmful food. Stress is another factor that contributes towards high blood pressure which eventually gives birth to strokes. Similarly, the food we eat is filled with saturated fat, refined sugar and nearly no fiber. And, then comes in the habit of smoking and drinking to add up to it. So, with all of this, how can you expect your heart to be healthy?
That’s not it – ‘The Journal of the American Medical Association reported in 2002 that exposure to air pollution is also one of the major causes of heart attacks in the United States. Every year nearly 10,000 people suffer from deadly heart attacks due to the exposure to pollution.
Now, there are numerous drugs and medicines available out there to prevent strokes but we all know how good they are. Aspirin and warfarin are two common pills used for thinning the blood. Statin drugs are used to reduce cholesterol levels. To control and lower blood pressure, anti-hypertension medicines are used. To clear the arteries, bypass surgeries and angioplasty options are used. All of these do work to a certain extent but the cost of all of it and the side effects they have can literally eat up the patient.
On the other hand, you can opt for nattokinase supplements and tweak your lifestyle a bit and get the most out of it. Here is how nattokinase can help reduce your chances of getting a stroke:
It Prevents Blood from Clotting:
To understand how nattokinase prevents blood from clotting, it is important to understand how blood clotting forms. Blood clotting is basically a very natural process. It is helpful in saving the blood from overflowing injuries are caused. It allows the blood to thicken and form clots or thrombus of blood cells. Whenever a blood vessel suffers an injury, the platelets bundle up with each other. Threads of blood protein fibrin tie these platelets together to stop the bleeding. Therefore, the clots become a sort of cover over the injured area and impede the blood from flowing unnecessarily. If this clotting process was not present in our bodies naturally, we would have bled to death with a small cut.
But, when the blood becomes thicker than it needs to be, blood starts clotting within the veins and arteries without any injuries. In a healthy person’s body, these clots would dissolve naturally. But, if the body is unhealthy and is promoting the thickening of blood, chances are that the clot will stay and mobilize. Here are the two major situations in which the blood clots can create problems for the human body:
- A blood clot can mobilize. It can form in any of the chambers of the heart and then mobilize through the blood stream. It can make its place in any artery or any organ of the body. If this happens, the blood stream to that part of the body is cut off which causes embolism. This situation can become highly dangerous if embolism forms in the lungs.
- The second situation is of a thrombus forming in any of the arteries. If this happens, the blood flow and the oxygen supply are stopped. If this happens, it can result in a heart attack that can be extremely dangerous. Such a heart attack can result in infarction, damage and death of the tissues in the heart. Similarly, the clot can also move to the brain and cut off the oxygen and blood supply. This can result in strokes and senility.
It must be remembered that the most common cause of emboli development is the formation of blood clots. According to a recent survey, nearly 2 million Americans suffer from this disorder. The two small upper chambers of the heart tremble instead of functioning normally (beating) in atrial fibrillation. When this happens, some of the blood remains within the chambers and is not completely pumped out. The blood that stays behind accumulates there and eventually clots. When this clot finally comes out of the chamber, enters the blood stream and gets stuck in a narrow artery of the brain, the stroke occurs!
Aging and Blood Clotting:
We have already studied the effects of aging on blood clotting in the body. There are around 20 enzymes in the body which are responsible for making blood clots. On the other hand, there is just one enzyme produced in the body that is responsible for dissolving clots. Now, the problem occurs as we age. The production of plasmin slows down and the body is unable to dissolve clots. Plasmin is produced by endothelial cells in the body which makes it possible for the clots to occur possibly anywhere within the body.
The fibrinogen levels in the body rise when the body grows old. When the levels of fibrinogen increase, the platelet aggregation increases along with an increase in blood clots throughout the body. Of course, this means that the chances of strokes and heart attacks increase as well. Usually, people think that high cholesterol is the red signal for strokes and heart attacks but it’s not. High fibrinogen levels are actually the red signals.
How Does Nattokinase Serve the Cause?
As we know it by now, nattokinase is capable of enhancing the body’s natural ability to fight against and dissolve blood clots. Also, it is better than most blood thinners because its effects are long lasting. Finally, nattokinase does not have any major side effects and therefore is completely safe.
Functions of Nattokinase to Prevent Strokes and Heart Attacks:
- Dissolves fibrin
- Dissolves blood clots in the veins
- Prevents any blood clotting and growth in the blood
- Supports, control and reduces blood pressure
- Helpful in increasing the production of plasmin and other similar agents that dissolve blood clots such as urokinase
Nattokinase and Restoration of Blood Circulation:
The most striking story regarding the effects of nattokinase on blood circulation was documented some years back. This one story is enough to explain the benefits of nattokinase on blood circulation. A 58 year old man was suffering from a blood clot in his right eye’s retina. This clot was building up fluid and making the eye bleed. Gradually, the man started losing his vision of his right eye. He was admitted to a university hospital. The researchers there prescribed him to take 3 ounce of natto every day prior to going to bed. They believed that the benefits of nattokinase can help his body dissolve the clot.
After ten days, the bleeding stopped and after 20 days his vision became normal. In 20 days, the man was released from the hospital in the best of his health. He was prescribed to eat natto twice a day. After two months, a retinal angiogram showed that the blood clot was completely dissolved.
Nattokinase for DVT:
DVT is a disorder in which the blood clots are found deep in body cavities or extremities. It is quite a common disorder that affects millions of people around the globe. In this disorder, a venous thrombus is formed. A venous thrombus is developed when a group of blood cells and pantalets are stringed up by fibrins. This clot then attaches itself to the inside of the walls of the veins and gradually it grows in size. It then detaches from the walls and travels through the blood stream. Wherever this clot localizes it causes swelling and vein irritation. On the other hand, if not the whole clot and just a part of it breaks off and travels then it can cause blockages in the stream. It can also become an embolus and cause pulmonary embolus. In the worst cases, these clots can cause other serious and deadly medical problems such as strokes and heart attacks.
In the recent years, researchers have conducted various studies to reveal that long car trips and flights can cause DVT (deep vein thrombosis). It usually develops in the leg and is usually found in women than in men. Most of the patients of this condition are women above the age of 40.
Can Nattokinase Help?
Yes. Nattokinase has proven to be really helpful in curing DVT and enhancing the body’s ability to dissolve the clots. Again, as nattokinase has long lasting effects, regular intake of it can prevent more of such clots from producing (4).
Nattokinase for Amyloid Plaques:
Amyloid fibrils are common to occur in numerous diseases related to humans. It is a very commonly occurring issue and one of the major elements of the Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s disease, there are formations of amyloid fibril plaques in the brain. These occur usually in patients who are dependent upon insulin and the injection sites are mostly the areas they are formed. Diabetic amyloids are quite dangerous and are caused by insulin fibrils. Moreover, 20 of the different types of proteins found in the human body can give birth to such amyloid fibrils.
In 2008, a study published in the ‘Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry’ stated that nattokinase was able to dissolve three types of synthetically formed amyloid fibroids during the experiment. The conclusion was that nattokinase is highly effective in treating diseases that are caused by or are related to amyloids (1).
Nattokinase and Atherosclerosis:
Atherosclerosis is a disorder in which the arterial walls harden and narrow to a certain extent. Even though it is not completely proven yet, the use of nattokinase can help in preventing and treating this disorder. The ‘Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database’ narrated that the use of natto can help in reducing the thickness of vessel walls. However, the studies and experiments regarding the treatment of this condition with nattokinase have only been done on animals. Therefore, more studies need to be done especially on humans to come up with some solid information regarding the effects of nattokinase on this condition.
Other Uses of Nattokinase:
Nattokinase has been used widely over the years by alternative medicine practitioners for treating several different circulatory and cardiovascular diseases. Strokes, angina, venous stasis, deep vein thrombosis, claudication, peripheral vascular diseases and hypertension are some of the disorders and diseases treated with nattokinase. The usage of nattokinase is not limited to this; people today use it for reducing pain and treating a number of other disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, uterine fibroids, infertility, cancer, muscle spasms, beriberi and hemorrhoids. However, it must be remembered that these usages are based on anecdotal reports and no solid evidence is yet to confirm its effectiveness.
Consuming natto, the food, is completely harmless however consuming the enzyme in supplementary form must not be without a doctor’s advice (1).
Can I Use it?
Nattokinase is a very safe alternative to traditional drugs. If you are looking for a highly effective, safe and drug-free alternative to your medicines then nattokinase can work for you. However, as mentioned earlier, if you are suffering from a severe disease then you must consult with your doctor about the usage of nattokinase.
Is It Safe to Use?
Nattokinase is quite a safe enzyme to use. Please make sure to stick with the recommended dosage. If you suffer from ulcers, have been operated recently or have suffered a major trauma recently then you must not use nattokinase. Also, people who have had ischemic stroke or neurosurgery in the recent months should not take this enzyme. In addition, people who have suffered from intracranial bleeding should not use it as well. To sum it up, people who suffer from bleeding disorders or are regularly taking anti-clotting medicines can use nattokinase under the supervision of a doctor.
According to the various studies conducted on nattokinase, it has been concluded that this enzyme is four to five times more powerful than plasmin. Also, it is way more potent than warfarin drugs because its effects are long term. Finally, because it doesn’t have any side effects, it can be rated as the safest alternative medicine for blood clots.
For more than a thousand years, the Japanese have been consuming natto and availing its benefits. It offers numerous benefits including but not limited to the ones mentioned in this paper. It is also quite a cost effective alternative. It is a naturally occurring enzyme which makes your body’s mechanism of fighting against clots stronger. All the benefits and effects of nattokinase mentioned in this paper are the ones drawn as conclusions by numerous authentic studies.
If you are new to nattokinase then it is recommended to talk to your about it prior to the use (4).
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- ‘Nattokinase Supplements.’ Live Strong. n.p. n.d. Web. 27 May, 2011.
- ‘Nattokinase: Powerful Enzyme Prevents Heart Attack and Stroke.’ Smart Publications. n.p. n.d. Web. 27 May, 2011.
- ‘Nattokinase.’ Spring Board 4 Health. n.p. n.d. Web. 27 May, 2011.
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