You may not yet be familiar with natto -- sticky, fermented soybeans that have been compared in flavor to Roquefort cheese -- but this superfood has been a tradition in Japanese cuisine for more than 1,000 years. And you owe it to your health to give it a try. In ancient times, anecdotal reports show that natto was used to relieve stomachaches, the flu, and to help pregnant women give birth. The nutritive value of this food was so high that Samurai consumed it on a daily basis, and even fed it to their horses to increase their speed and strength.
Today natto is receiving worldwide attention for its role as a functional food that may ward off cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and much more.
Much of the fanfare surrounding natto has to do with nattokinase, a fibrinolytic (clot-busting) enzyme that was discovered by Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi, aka “Dr. Natto,” in 1980 while he was working as a researcher at the University of Chicago. The Bacillus natto acts on the soybeans, producing the nattokinase enzyme. Dr. Sumi studied about 200 foods from around the world and found that natto has the highest fibrinolytic activity of any food he studied. “There is no enzyme that has a stronger fibrinolytic activity than nattokinase,” he said.
Why is this so important?
Because blood clots that form inside your blood vessels restrict your blood flow, and that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Your body does produce an enzyme that breaks up fibrin naturally; it’s called
plasmin.As you age, however, your body produces less plasmin and more fibrinogen. As
a result, your body will begin clotting more, and disintegrating the clots less, on
its own. One of the most beneficial effects of nattokinase is that it has an extremely
powerful ability to disintegrate blood clots. The properties of nattokinase closely
resemble the fibrinolytic activity of your body’s natural enzyme, plasmin.
Nattokinase is a powerful fibrinolytic enzyme that is extracted from a traditional Japanese food called Natto. Natto is similar to cheese and is made from fermented soybeans. The fermentation process is carried out by adding the bacteria, Bacillus natto to boiled soybeans and as the bacteria acts on the soybeans, nattokinase enzyme is released. Because of the innumerable nattokinase benefits, it is becoming increasingly popular as a dietary supplement all over the world. Now let’s see what these benefits are:
- Regulates blood pressure – Nattokinase is capable of lowering blood pressure levels by inhibiting the action of the enzyme ACE (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme), which is responsible for narrowing the blood vessels and increasing the blood pressure.
- Thrombolytic effect – Nattokinase has the ability to remove thrombus (clotting) in the body by dissolving the fibrin that holds the platelets together. This is similar to the way plasmin enzyme works. Plasmin is a natural enzyme produced by the body which helps to break down fibrin and hence prevent unnecessary blood clotting. But the production of plasmin decreases as people grow older, in which case nattokinase supplements can help to perform the same functions of plasmin. It also helps to increase the body’s production of plasmin and urokinase (an enzyme that converts plasminogen to plasmin).
- Enhances blood circulation – Nattokinase helps to improve the circulation of blood by preventing the hardening and narrowing of arteries.
- Prevents heart disease- This enzyme has blood thinning effects, which allows the free flow of blood throughout the body. It also helps in preventing the formation of plaque arteries, hence reducing the risk of arterial clotting and other heart related problems.
- Prevents osteoporosis – Nattokinase is a rich source of vitamin K2, which helps to prevent the development of osteoporosis and also stops it from getting worse.
- Anti-aging effects – Nattokinase is also a rich source of vitamin B2, which has natural and effective anti-aging properties. Vitamin B2 along with the high protein content of this enzyme helps to keep the skin healthy and young.
- Regulates cholesterol – Since nattokinase has blood thinning properties, it effectively helps in reducing the cholesterol levels, thus preventing many health complications.
- Studies reveal that nattokinase has the ability to dissolve the amyloid deposits that are believed to be responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease
- Offers relief from migraine headaches
- Improves the bone density and reduces pain in the muscles and joints
- Helps to keep hair healthy and prevents hair loss
- Helps in treating uterine fibroids
- Nattokinase has the potential to prevent the occurrence of hemorrhoids, stroke, varicose veins, and muscle spasms.
- This enzyme also has antibacterial effect and hence has been used in the olden days to prevent cholera, typhoid and dysentery
In addition to the above mentioned benefits, nattokinase also has the advantage of being less expensive, efficient, and easy to administer with long lasting effects. Since it is a naturally occurring substance, it is safe without any major side effects what so ever. Nattokinase is a therefore, wonderful ingredient that can be added to your diet in order to improve the overall health of your body.