Heart disease lurks under the surface in our blood vessels and can appear with little to no warning.
When it does present itself, it can be associated with a significant lowering in the quality of life - as well as sudden death. In 2000, the World Health Organization attributed 29% of global mortality to heart disease (1).
I don't need to over-sensationalize the risk of heart disease - you surely know someone who has been deeply affected by it & the statistics speak for themselves.
What you might not know is that heart disease is often complicated by an increased risk of blood clotting.
Individuals with chronic inflammation, lack of exercise, excess oxidative stress, aging, and other factors have an increased risk of blood clotting and poor blood flow. Healthy circulation depends on normal production of fibrin - an inflammatory protein in the blood that helps to clot the blood in the event of bodily injury.
Normally, clotting prevents excess bleeding and cellular damage, but extra fibrin circulates with the blood and may stick to blood vessel walls - increasing the risk for a heart attack, thrombosis (a clot), embolism (a migrating clot), or stroke.
Healthy blood viscosity and flow ensures that nutrients are delivered to organs and cells and wastes carried away efficiently. Healthy production of fibrin and other clotting agents are an integral part of your cardiovascular health - and therefore your overall health too.
When you think of fibrin - think of sticky glue. Do you want sticky glue in your blood?
Fibrin makes your blood sticky. Nattokinase may help to reduce fibrin and the stickiness of your blood.
Nattokinase - An Enzyme from Fermented Soybeans
Nattokinase is an enzyme derived from soybean fermentation that helps to break down excess fibrin. Natto is a traditional Japanese food is made by fermenting soybeans in presence of a Bacillus subtilis - a soil based probiotic. In addition to breaking down fibrin, nattokinase also has been shown in human study to reduce Factor VII and Factor VIII of the body’s coagulation cascade, and reduce red blood cell aggregations, as well as collagen, thrombin, and thromboxane A2-induced platelet aggregation without evidence of adverse side effects (2; 3).
Nattokinase is stable in the gastrointestinal tract making it a viable option for oral supplementation to support healthy blood flow. It may be a useful adjunct in natural support of high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and eye health (4; 5). The brain and eye tissue are rich in tiny vessels that are vulnerable to improper blood clotting.
When compared to other enzymes of similar effect, Nattokinase has no side effects, low toxicology concerns, low cost, and has a long chemical life-time while helping to support cardiovascular health (1; 6; 7). Nattokinase is easy to isolate and produce by manufacturers which makes it affordable to consumers.
Nattokinase and Blood Clotting Potential
Nattokinase is best known as an anti-clotting agent.
In a small clinical trial of healthy males, nattokinase demonstrated an ability to promote healthy blood clotting potential by several pathways at the same time (8). Its anti-clotting effects have also been demonstrated in vitro as well as in vivo in dogs, rats and mice (9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17). The United States’ National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken recent interest in nattokinase and the substance is currently in Phase II clinical trial for investigation of its anti-clotting potential in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (18).
While the data is not the most robust (as is the case with most natural extracts), there's a lot of references and history behind nattokinase as an effective cardiovascular supplement. NSF involvement shows that there is strong promise for the future of nattokinase!
Nattokinase and Blood Pressure
An additional clinical study involved 73 human subjects who had starting systolic blood pressures in the 130-159 mmHg range experienced statistically significant changes (p<0.05) in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. A significant reduction in renin levels was also noted by the study (19). Renin is secreted by a special type of kidney cell and acts to increase blood pressure.
The effects on hypertension were supported by an additional clinical trial that involved 74 individuals who had systolic blood pressures of > or = 130mmHg or diastolic blood pressure of > or = 90 mmHg. Some also saw statistically significant changes in von Willebrand factor - an additional cardiovascular risk factor involved in clotting (20).
Nattokinase for Frequent Air Travel - Superficial and Deep Vein Thrombosis, and Edema
An additional study that split a group of 204 subjects into randomized groups that received nattokinase or placebo. The nattokinase group demonstrated no incidence of deep vein thrombosis compared to 5.4% incidence in the placebo group following a flight of 7-8 hours. The placebo group also had some incidence of superficial thromboses in 7.4% of those examined. While edema was no different in the placebo and treatment groups, after the flight, edema had increased 12% in the placebo group and decreased 15% in the treatment group (21). Those who travel frequently for work or leisure may benefit from nattokinase to prevent the development of superficial and deep blood clots.
Nattokinase for Chronic Sinusitis and Asthma
Chronic sinusitus is often associated with the development of nasal polyps - caused in part by excess deposits of sticky fibrin. So while enzymes are not the first thought when it comes to sinus problems - research supports their use. Nattokinase demonstrated an ability to shrink nasal polyps and reduce the viscosity of nasal discharge and mucous. Patients with asthma and chronic sinusitis may benefit from nattokinase supplementation (22).
Nattokinase for Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm
Enzymes are often commonly used for chronic infections. Microbes often hide themselves from prescription drugs or our own immune system by developing biofilm. Biofilm is a matrix-like substance that the microbes are suspended in that can serve to feed and protect them.
Nattokinase may be useful in preventing or overcoming biofilm formation, at least in a model of Staphylococcus aureus introduced by central catheter insertion (23).
Seek Health Professional Opinion When Supplementing with Nattokinase
There have been a few case reports of cases where you do not want to combine nattokinase with other blood thinning agents such as Aspirin or take as a substitute to Coumadin for prevention of clots associated with implanted medical equipment so do check with your doctor if you are on blood-thinning medication before turning to nattokinase as a natural alternative. There has been recent concern about long-term non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen use which may increase interest in alternatives like nattokinase.
There are cases when nattokinase may be beneficial in combination with Heparin or Coumadin when taken for primary prevention (24).
Those with severe soy allergies may trigger an allergic reaction with Nattokinase.
Those with inherited blood disorders or an increased probability for blood clotting also should seek medical counsel before consuming Nattokinase.
Lastly, nattokinase has not been demonstrated to be helpful in addressing high lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides.
Despite the risks by a few individual case studies, nattokinase has been demonstrated largely to be a safe and non-toxic means to maintain healthy blood flow and promote cardiovascular health on a short & long-term basis. While nattokinase is freely available for you to purchase without a prescription, check with your health professional if it’s right for you.