Nattokinase is an enzyme found in Nattō, a popular
Japanese cheese made from fermented soybeans. This enzyme has been
found to dissolve blood clots. Clots that form inside a blood vessel
in the absence of a wound may restrict the blood flow and lead to
heart attack or stroke. Nattokinase can diminish this risk.
to legend, about a thousand years ago, the warrior Minamoto no Yoshiie
found and tasted boiled soybeans that had been left on straw and had
fermented. That was the discovery of Nattō. It is believed
that by the end of the Edo period (1603-1867), Nattō had
become a regular part of Japanese cuisine in some areas. It is no
secret that the Japanese live longer, have less cardiovascular
disease and are not affected by heart attack and stroke as frequently
as people in the Western world. Many now believe that Nattō has been
the secret to their well-being.
is Nattō made? In the past, bundles made from rice straw were
filled with steamed beans and then stored in a warm, humid
environment. This resulted in fermentation by Bacillus Nattō,
a bacterium that lives in rice straw. During fermentation, proteins
and glucide contained in the soybeans decompose, generating the
distinctive Nattō strings, which can stretch up to 20 feet.
Nattō is mass-produced in automated factories, where steamed
soybeans are sprayed with the ideal amount of Bacillus Nattō.
The beans are then transferred to small containers by machine. A
conveyor moves them to storage, where preset temperature and humidity
levels allow the beans to ferment and mature.
1980 Japanese researcher Hiroyuki Sumi accidentally discovered that
Nattō had the ability to dissolve blood clots. He then set out to
isolate the enzyme within Nattō primarily responsible for this clot
busting ability. He purified and isolated the enzyme, which he called
nattokinase, literally Nattō enzyme ( Interview with Doctor of
Medicine Hiroyuki Sumi, Japan Bio Science Laboratory Co., Ltd.,
When we suffer a
cut or wound, our blood has the ability to seal off these breaks to
prevent us from bleeding to death. In response to the emergency, the
blood-vessel walls or the clotting factors in the blood release a
chemical into the bloodstream. This causes fibrinogen, an inert
protein found in blood plasma, to be converted into fibrin. The
fibrin molecule is unique in its ability to link together, forming
long threads that wrap around the platelet plug. The threads act much
like a spider-web, catching more platelets, red blood cells, and
other substances to form a clot. The newly formed, jellylike clot is
about 99 percent water. So two proteins are released by the
platelets, causing the clot to contract and squeeze out the fluid. A
solid clot has now formed. On the skin surface, where the clot has
been exposed to air, it is commonly called a scab.
begun, the process must be stopped so that the clot does not become
so big that it blocks the vessel and cuts off blood circulation. How
is it stopped? After the mending work is done, blood flow rapidly
returns to normal and disperses the clotting factors. There are also
several anticoagulants in the blood that prevent excessive clotting
and keep platelets from collecting together when there is no
unnecessary blood clotting can also occur in the absence of a wound.
Why does this occur? Our body produces only one enzyme that has the
ability to break up clots by dissolving fibrin – plasmin. As we
age, the body produces less plasmin. On the other hand, fibrinogen
levels increase as we age. The older we get, then, the more clotting
and the less clot busting ability we have. Thus, millions of
Americans each year suffer heart attacks or strokes resulting from
unnecessary blood clots – leading to death or permanent disability
(Montalescot, G. et al. “Fibrinogen as a risk factor for coronary
heart disease.” Eur Heart J 1998, 19 Suppl H:H11-17).