Nattokinase was discovered in the 1980s by Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi, a researcher at the Chicago University Medical School. It’s a protease enzyme that is thought to limit cardiovascular events and prevent thrombus formation and blood clotting. Another benefit is its potential to ameliorate pain and inflammation through anti-inflammatory activities. Furthermore, the enzyme may also prove beneficial in helping to remedy other health issues as well. Here's what you need to know if you're considering using nattokinase for heart health.
What Is Nattokinase and Where Does it Come From?
Nattokinase is an enzyme that is extracted from natto, a sticky food made from fermented soybeans. It's made with boiled soybeans fermented with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis natto. Natto is a traditional Asian food that is popular in Japan. And it has been used for ages in folk medicine to address cardiovascular diseases.
Natto was found to dissolve plasmin substrate as well as artificial fibrin, which is an insoluble protein that’s involved in forming blood clots.
Nattokinase appears to possess the same properties that can help to mitigate specific health issues related to the heart and circulatory system. This enzyme belongs to the serine protease family and is responsible for breaking down other forms of proteins.
Research findings shed some light on the mechanisms of action delivered by nattokinase. This research shows that it can:
- Directly dissolve the blood-clotting protein known as cross-linked fibrin.
- Increase plasmin in the blood that degrades fibrin.
- Block the formation of thromboxane, a substance released from platelets that’s responsible for blood clotting and blood vessel constriction.
Nattokinase Cardiovascular Benefits
Nattokinase is a subject of growing research in the western world because of its recently uncovered potential benefits. It possesses several favorable cardiovascular effects due to its anticoagulant and thrombolytic activities. Some conditions research suggests nattokinase may help include:
Blood Clots and Deep Vein Thrombosis
Nattokinase may be beneficial for patients with thrombosis, which is the development of a blood clot inside a blood vessel. Specifically, it dissolves fibrin and minimizes levels of coagulation factors involved in blood clotting. It appears that a high dose of nattokinase can be an effective anti-clotting agent, reducing blood clots and possibly preventing their formation altogether. In this way, it mimics the effects of aspirin, a popular blood thinner. Nattokinase is effective in improving blood flow to normal levels as well.
A blood clot in a deep vein in a person’s body is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It commonly occurs in the legs and usually affects older or obese individuals who suffer from an underlying circulatory problem. Research has shown that nattokinase can break down fibrin and act as a potent anticoagulant (blood thinner), limiting the concentration of factor VIII, a blood-clotting protein.
According to a study in the International Journal of Molecular Science, in which a group of twelve healthy, young males were randomly given a single capsule of nattokinase (2000 FU), in just two hours, the antithrombin concentration in their blood increased significantly. The findings suggest that it protects against deep vein thrombosis by improving blood flow and preventing blood clot formation.
There is some evidence that suggests that nattokinase may possess neuroprotective and antiapoptotic properties that stops the progression of ischemic stroke in sufferers. Apoptosis is cell die-off, so by preventing cell die-off, nattokinase may help limit the effects of a stroke.
Nattokinase may also improve blood flow to the brain after a stroke by breaking down fibrin and minimizing the spread of tissue damage. Furthermore, the protein enzyme is believed to have the potential to reduce the von Willebrand Factor (vWF), which is a mediator that increases the risk of forming clots, and as a result, increases the risk of stroke.
Other Possible Nattokinase Benefits
Additionally, nattokinase is purported to help conditions including:
- Hypertension: Nattokinase may reduce hypertension (or high blood pressure) by blocking the angiotensin-converting enzyme, which narrows blood vessels. It’s effective in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
- Amyloid-related diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD): Nattokinase controls specific AD risk factors (acetylcholinesterase, Fas, TGF-β, and IL-6) and demonstrates neuroprotective efficacy, due in part to its anti-inflammatory and antiapoptotic effects. It degrades amyloid fibrils (protein aggregates) and enhances impaired learning and memory capability.
- High cholesterol: To effectively impact high cholesterol, nattokinase decreases serum cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol.