Maintaining normal cholesterol and blood pressure levels is essential for cardiovascular health. But there’s another key factor many people, even cardiologists, often overlook: blood clotting. If your blood does not clot enough, even simple cuts or bruises can turn into life-threatening injuries. But if your blood clots too much, your blood becomes more thick, or viscous—slowing down your circulation. One fundamental difference between the Japanese and the American diet is that Japanese citizens consume over 50,000 tons of a traditional fermented soy food called natto each year--while Americans eat none. Could that account for the difference?
What Is Nattokinase?
Nattokinase is a potent, fibrinolytic enzyme extracted and highly purified from a traditional Japanese food called Natto. It has been used in Japan for over 1,000 years for its popular taste and as a remedy for heart and vascular diseases.
Potent Thrombolytic Activity
The human body produces several types of enzymes for making thrombus but only one main enzyme for breaking it down and dissolving it--plasmin. The properties of nattokinase closely resemble plasmin. According to Dr. Martin Milner from the Center for Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, what makes nattokinase a particularly potent treatment is that it enhances the body's natural ability to fight blood clots in several different ways. Because it so closely resembles plasmin, it dissolves fibrin directly. In addition, it also enhances the body's production of both plasmin and other clot-dissolving agents, including urokinase (endogenous). "In some ways," Milner says, "Nattokinase is actually superior to conventional clot-dissolving drugs. T-PAs (tissue plasminogen activators) like urokinase (the drug) are only effective when taken intravenously and often fail simply because a stroke or heart attack victim's arteries have hardened beyond the point where they can be treated by any other clot-dissolving agent. Nattokinase, however, can help prevent that hardening with an oral dose of as little as 100 mg a day."
The Prolonged Action of Nattokinase Nattokinase produces a prolonged action (unlike antithrombin drugs that wear off shortly after IV treatment is discontinued) in two ways: it prevents coagulation of blood and it dissolves existing thrombus.
The Mechanism Behind Thrombus
Blood clots (or thrombi) form when strands of protein called fibrin accumulate in a blood vessel. In the heart, blood clots cause blockage of blood flow to muscle tissue. If blood flow is blocked, the oxygen supply to that tissue is cut off and it eventually dies. This can result in angina and heart attacks. Clots in chambers of the heart can mobilize to the brain. In the brain, blood clots also block blood and oxygen from reaching necessary areas which can result in senility and/or stroke.
Thrombolytic enzymes are normally generated in the endothelial cells of the blood vessels. As the body ages, production of these enzymes begins to decline making blood more prone to coagulation. This mechanism can lead to cardiac or cerebral infarction, as well as other conditions. Since endothelial cells exist throughout the body, such as in the arteries, veins and lymphatic system, poor production of thrombolytic enzymes can lead to the development of thrombotic conditions virtually anywhere in the body.
It has recently been revealed that thrombotic clogging of the cerebral blood vessels may be a cause of dementia. It has been estimated that sixty percent of senile dementia patients in Japan is caused by thrombus. Thrombotic diseases typically include cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral infarction, cardiac infarction and angina pectoris, and also include diseases caused by blood vessels with lowered flexibility, including senile dementia and diabetes (caused by pancreatic dysfunction). Hemorrhoids are considered a local thrombotic condition. If chronic diseases of the capillaries are also considered, then the number of thrombus related conditions may be much higher. Cardiac infarction patients may have an inherent imbalance in that their thrombolytic enzymes are weaker than their coagulant enzymes. Nattokinase holds great promise to support patients with such inherent weaknesses in a convenient and consistent manner, without side effects.Nattokinase is capable of directly and potently decomposing fibrin as well as activating pro-urokinase (endogenous).
Research In The United States
Dr. Martin Milner of the Center for Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon and Dr. Kouhei Makise of the Imadeqawa Makise Clinica in Kyoto, Japan were able to launch a joint research project on nattokinase and write an extensive paper on their findings. "In all my years of research as a professor of cardiovascular and pulmonary medicine, natto and nattokinase represents the most exciting new development in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular related diseases," Dr. Milner said. "We have finally found a potent natural agent that can thin and dissolve clots effectively with relative safety and without side effects."
The Benefits of Nattokinase on Blood Pressure
Traditionaly in Japan, Natto has been consumed not only for cardiovascular support, but also to lower blood pressure. In recent years, this traditional belief has been confirmed by several clinical trials. In 1995, researchers from Miyazaki Medical College and Kurashiki University of Science and Arts in Japan studied the effects of nattokinase on blood pressure in both animal and human subjects (see below). In addition, the researchers confirmed the presence of inhibitors of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), which converts angiotensin I to its active form angiotensin II within the test extract which consisted of 80% ethanol extract of lyophilized viscous materials of natto. ACE causes blood vessels to narrow and blood pressure to rise--by inhibiting ACE, nattokinase has a lowering effect on blood pressure.
The traditional Japanese food Natto has been used safely for over 1000 years, and the potent fibrinolytic enzyme nattokinase appears to be safe based upon the long-term traditional use of this food.