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Nattokinase Ready for Prime Time.

May 18th, 2009

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The best news for heart health is nattokinase, discovered in Japan.

A new human study should erase any lingering doubt as to whether or not nattokinase enzyme can really make a difference in terms of heart health. Find out what nattokinase is and how it helps heart health in today’s AllStarHealth blog.

The potential has always been there for nattokinase to be a breakthrough supplement for heart health.

Whereas everyone is aware that heart attacks and strokes kill or disable millions of people a year, and that high blood pressure and high cholesterol are risk factors for both, relatively few people seem to be aware a primary danger that underlies both heart attacks and strokes, are blood clots. While cholesterol-induced atherosclerotic plaques can narrow an artery in the heart or the brain, it’s most often a blood clot that ultimately occludes the narrowed space, thus causing the heart attack or the stroke.

So theoretically, any safe thing you can do to lower the risk of unhealthy clot formation would be incredibly useful, especially if it’s inexpensive.

Doctors recognize this danger and anti-coagulant drugs like aspirin and blood thinners are very common. But these drugs have serious side-effects that limit their use.

Nattokinase may turn out to be even better than these, and with fewer side-effects because of the different way in which it works.

Blood clots are formed by a complex multi-stage process called coagulation which occurs in response to bleeding injuries that must be stopped somewhere in the body. Unhealthy blood clots can also arise as a result of various hypercoagulation disorders. Blood clots inside the body are usually reabsorbed as the injury has healed, or in the case of external injuries, they just fall off.

When a clot forms for any reason, the process is the same. Platelet cells in the blood induce a sequence of reactions, each of which involves specific enzymes or other proteins. If this sequence itself or any of the steps are impaired, healthy clot formation cannot occur and the ability to stop bleeding may be lost. Many coagulation disorders like hemophilia are caused by genetic problems that impair a single step in this process.

A protein called fibrin is central to the process of clot formation once it’s activated, after which it becomes fibrinogen. Fibrin, produced by the liver, is always present in the bloodstream so clot formation can start immediately after an injury.

Anti-coagulant or “blood thinning” drugs work by impairing one or more steps in the coagulation sequence. But because the body is a highly-integrated system, you’ll almost always have unintended and undesirable effects when you do this – block, interfere with or manipulate specific functions.

But nattokinase works on fibrin itself, and because of where fibrin is positioned in the sequence of events that forms a clot, there are very few side-effects from using nattokinase.

Early lab tests on nattokinase showed that it dissolved fibrin, and could therefore be considered a legitimate fibrinolytic agent, at least in a lab dish. This led to a lot of initial interest in nattokinase, but for various reasons it remains marginalized relative to its potential. One reason is the relatively few number of human studies, another is the modest-profit potential of natural compounds making big marketing campaigns cost-prohibitive.

This recent study involved both healthy humans and those at risk for cardiovascular disease and showed that natto lowered fibrinogen and 2 other clotting factors in all groups (there was a third group consisting of dialysis patients).

Nattokinase is an enzyme isolated from the fermented soy food called natto, which is a popular health food in Japan. In a sort of folk-medicine sense, the Japanese had always regarded natto as being very good for you in general , and very good for heart health in particular. A Japanese research scientist in search of natural fibrinolytic compounds discovered that the bacteria that ferment soybeans to produce natto produce an enzyme that IS a potent fibrinolytic compound. He coined the name nattokinase and since it’s discovery, it’s held enormous potential as possible way to reduce the risk of harmful blood clots and the catastrophic strokes they can cause, possibly as a more favorable alternative than blood thinning drugs and aspirin.

The subjects in this study took two 2000 FU (fibrinolytic units) capsules of nattokinase per day, for two months without any adverse side-effects. The authors concluded that their “… study showed that oral administration of nattokinase could be considered as a CVD (cardiovascular disease) nutraceutical by decreasing plasma levels of fibrinogen, factor VII, and factor VIII”

With this study, but especially if follow-up studies support these findings, nattokinase seems poised to take its place alongside the other unquestionably beneficial heart health nutraceuticals like fish oil, Co-Q10 and magnesium. To use the same dose of nattokinase as this study, use 2 NOW Foods Nattokinase vegetarian softgels per day.

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