ability of blood to coagulate can be a crucial part of survival
in cases of severe injury. But when blood clots occur at the
wrong times, in the wrong places within the body, they can have
Unfortunately, your treatment options in these circumstances are
limited, and treatment must be administered quickly. Which is
why prevention and knowing all of your options now¾before
problems occur¾is crucial.
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 results in senility and/or stroke.
In Japan, the levels of disease and fatalities caused by blood
clots are alarming. Researchers estimate that blood clots that
diminish blood flow to the brain are responsible for 60 percent
of all senility cases in that country.1 l
Consequently, Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi¾a
Japanese researcher doing work at the University of Chicago's
medical school¾began searching for a
substance that could dissolve and even prevent blood clots.
His team of researchers tested roughly 173 foods, including
several types of liquor, before examining a traditional Japanese
food called natto, made from boiled and fermented soybeans. The
Japanese have consumed natto for centuries under the belief that
it fosters cardiovascular health.
In Dr. Sumi's lab that folk remedy turned into a clinically
scrutinized piece of modern medicine. He isolated an enzyme
inside natto, called nattokinase, and showed that it can prevent
and dissolve blood clots and may be able to safeguard people
from hardened arteries, heart attack, stroke, angina, and
Natto may help where modern
medicine-and the human body-fall short
While the human body contains several enzymes that promote the
creation of blood clots, it produces only one enzyme, plasmin,
that dissolves clots, and production of that enzyme diminishes
as we age.
Modern medicine includes several thrombolytic or clot-busting
drugs. The leading variety is t-PA (tissue plasminogen
activators), such as activase, urokinase, and streptokinase.
Each year, hospitals give these drugs to more than a million
stroke and heart attack patients. The treatment saves between
300,000 and 500,000 lives annually. But it's not a perfect cure.
T-PAs are expensive (a dose of urokinase costs approximately
US$1,500) so many patients don't receive the treatment. And the
drugs' impact can be short-lived. Urokinase, for example, begins
to lose effectiveness within four to 20 minutes after
But when Dr. Sumi's researchers dropped natto onto an
artificial thrombus (a blood clot) in a petri dish and allowed
it to stand at body temperature. the blood clot gradually
dissolved and disappeared completely within 18 hours. Dr.
Sumi commented that nattokinase¾the
active enzyme in natto¾showed "a
potency matched by no other enzyme."2
doctors in two different parts of the world, Dr. Martin Milner of the Center for Natural Medicine
in Portland, Oregon and Dr. Kouhei Makise of the Imadeqawa
Makise Clinic 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."
Blood clots dissolve almost 50 percent
faster with nattokinase-in as little as two hours
Nattokinase has been the subject of 17 studies, including two
small human trials.
Dr. Sumi and his colleagues induced blood clots in male dogs,
then orally administered either four capsules of nattokinase
(250 mg/capsule) or four placebo capsules to each dog.
Angiograms (X-rays of blood vessels) revealed that the dogs who
received nattokinase regained normal blood circulation (free
of the clot) within five hours of treatment. Blood clots in
the dogs who received only placebos showed no sign of dissolving
in the 18 hours following treatment.
Researchers from Biotechnology Research Laboratories and JCR
Pharmaceuticals Co. of Kobe, Japan, tested nattokinase's ability
to dissolve a thrombus in the carotid arteries of rats. Animals
treated with nattokinase regained 62 percent of blood flow,
whereas those treated with plasmin regained just 15.8 percent of
Researchers from three organizations¾JCR
Pharmaceuticals, Oklahoma State University, and Miyazaki Medical
College¾tested nattokinase on 12
healthy Japanese volunteers (six men and six women, between the
ages of 21 and 55). They gave the volunteers 200 grams of natto
daily (before breakfast), then tracked fibrinolytic activity in
the volunteers through a series of blood plasma tests. The tests
indicated that the natto generated a heightened ability to
dissolve blood clots: On average, the volunteers' ELT (a measure
of how long it takes to dissolve a blood clot) dropped by 48
percent within two hours of treatment, and volunteers
retained an enhanced ability to dissolve blood clots for two to
eight hours. As a control, researchers later fed the same amount
of boiled soybeans to the same volunteers and tracked their
fibrinolytic activity. The tests showed no significant change.4
Enhance your body's ability to fight
clots without IV treatment
According to Dr. Milner, what makes nattokinase a particularly
potent treatment is that it bolsters the body's natural
abilities to fight blood clots in several different ways. It
closely resembles plasmin and dissolves fibrin directly. In
addition, it also enhances the body's production of both plasmin
and other natural clot-dissolving agents, including urokinase.
In some ways, he says, nattokinase is actually superior to
conventional clot-dissolving drugs. T-PAs like urokinase 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
clot-dissolving agent. Nattokinase, however, can help prevent
that hardening with an oral dose of as little as 100 mg a day.
Reduce blood pressure by 10 percent
Many Japanese have long believed that regular consumption of
natto tends to lower blood pressure. Over the past several
years, this belief has been substantiated by several clinical
trials: In 1995, researchers reported that they had confirmed
the presence. of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
in natto.6 ACE causes blood vessels to narrow and
blood pressure to rise. Consequently, substances that inhibit
the production of ACE help lower blood pressure.
Researchers from two Japanese institutions¾the
Miyazaki Medical College and the Kurashiki University of Science
and Arts¾Iaunched studies to test
natto's impact on blood pressure in both rats and humans. They
administered a single dose of natto extract (the equivalent of
25 mg of natto) into the peritoneal cavity of six male rats. On
average, the rats' systolic blood pressure fell by 12.7 percent
within two hours.7
The researchers then tested natto extract on humans. Five
volunteers with high blood pressure each received the extract
daily (an oral dose equivalent to 200 grams of natto) for four
consecutive days. In four of the five volunteers, both systolic
and diastolic blood pressure dropped. On average, systolic blood
pressure fell by 10.9 percent and diastolic fell 9.7 percent.
California company helps bring Japanese
discovery to America
Since natto is traditionally a Japanese food, and one that is
referred to even there as "an acquired taste," it isn't readily
available in the United States. Nutricology of California, has investigated
the research, and impressed by the clinical results, has arranged to bring nattokinase supplements to the U.S.
1 “Interview with Doctor of
Mediine Hiroyuki Sumi,” Japan Bio Science Laboratory Co. Ltd.
2 Acra Haematol 1990; 84: 139-43
3 Bioi Pharm Bull 1995 Oct;
Haematol 1990; 84: 139-43
Plant Foods Hum Nutr 1995 Jan; 47(1)" 39-47