Nattokinase is an enzyme extracted from traditional Japanese food called nattō, prepared by the fermentation of boiled soybeans by the bacteria Bacillus subtilis natto.
It is known that the Asian population, especially the people of Japan, have lower cardiovascular death rate compared to the rest of the world population. Possible explanation for their longevity and lower cardiovascular risk may be the food they regularly consume. Their diet largely depends on soybeans, which may be fermented as a meal nattō. Nattokinase is discovered and isolated from nattō in 1987. It was noticed that this enzyme efficiently dissolves fibrin, a protein important for the formation of blood clots.
Nattokinase dissolves blood clots by the process of fibrinolysis (fibrin dissolving). Additional benefits include lowering of the arterial blood pressure, reducing atherosclerosis and inhibiting platelet aggregation. Because of the multiple beneficial cardiovascular effects, nattokinase may be used in prevention and therapy of cardiovascular diseases.
Damaged blood vessels favour the formation of the blood clots, which can block the blood flow through the certain organ of the body. If small blood clots are formed, our body has its own system aimed to dissolve them. Plasmin is the main enzyme responsible for the degradation of such small blood clots. However, larger blood clots can block the blood flow through the heart or the brain, causing heart attack or stroke. In these situations, it is mandatory to improve fibrinolysis using different medications which prevent further formation and growth of the blood clots.
Nattokinase dissolves fibrin four times more effective than plasmin. Such strong effect is achieved by several mechanisms which act together and result in strong fibronolysis.
Fibrin is a protein which forms a meshwork and stabilizes the blood clot. Nattokinase directly dissolves fibrin, slicing it into smaller molecules.
Urokinase is an enzyme normally present in human organism, which converts plasminogen to its active form plasmin. Further on, plasmin dissolves fibrin, and nattokinase augments this process by increasing conversion of prourokinase to urokinase.
tPA normally activates plasminogen and converts it to its active form plasmin. Plasmin then dissolves fibrin meshwork. Nattokinase additionally activates tPA and intensifies blood clot dissolution.
Nattokinase lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This effect can partially be explained by the inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). In fact, large group of drugs effective in treating hypertension, act by this mechanism (so-called ACE inhibitors).
Many cardiovascular diseases are caused by atherosclerosis. During this process, fat, cholesterol, and other substances accumulate in the walls of the blood vessels, forming deposits which are called plaques. Such atherosclerotic plaques can progressively narrow the blood vessel lumen. Nattokinase can reduce the area of atherosclerotic plaque. Also, it has been shown that nattokinase can reduce atherosclerosis to a greater extent than the statin therapy (powerful lipid-lowering drugs).
Nattokinase inhibits aggregation of platelets, additionally supressing the blood clot formation. It is also observed that nattokinase reduces aggregation of the red blood cells, and lowers blood viscosity.
Neuroprotective effect of nattokinase was observed under experimental conditions. It was shown that nattokinse could degrade another type of proteins, amyliod fibrils, which are deposited in brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. It was also observed that nattokinase may limit the area of acute stroke and preserve surrounding brain tissue.