What is Nattokinase?
Nattokinase is an enzyme byproduct obtained by fermenting Nattō with Bacillus subtilis bacteria. Nattō is a popular boiled soybean food product in Japan. However, the aroma, flavor, and consistency can be off-putting for some. Taking nattokinase supplements provides many of the nutritive benefits of nattō without the slimy texture. Despite its name, nattokinase is not a kinase enzyme. The name derives from the Japanese name for Bacillus subtilis natto, nattōkin.
Nattokinase is the most well-researched protease enzyme. These enzymes catalyze the breakdown of proteins to form new protein products. Proteases also help digest proteins, catabolize proteins, and participate in cell signaling. Without proteases, breaking down proteins (proteolysis) would take hundreds of years. Proteolysis is critical for digestion, and all living organisms need it for growth. Digestion usually destroys proteins, but nattokinase can remain active when taken orally.
Potential Nattokinase Benefits
Nattokinase and Heart Health
Nattokinase may support health through a few mechanisms. It has potent fibrinolytic properties and may inhibit the growth and damaging effects of blood clots. Fibrin proteins help form blood clots to protect and promote healing at wound sites. However, excessive fibrin generation can cause clots to form and block veins (thrombosis). Nattokinase breaks down these blood clots by deactivating plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1). Elevated PAI-1 levels are known risk factors for clot development and fat buildup in the arteries.
Nattokinase may improve blood flow as well. One study noted nattokinase delayed thrombosis by blocking thromboxane from forming following oxidative damage to artery walls. The same study reported improvements in blood flow. Nattokinase also exerts neuroprotective effects secondary to its ability to enhance blood flow. Multiple studies also reported that nattokinase exerts beneficial effects on blood pressure.
Potential Nattokinase Side Effects
Most individuals tolerate nattokinase well, and Japanese populations have consumed it for hundreds of years without experiencing significant adverse effects. However, individuals taking anticoagulants should not take nattokinase. Pairing blood-thinning agents increases the risk of a hemorrhage.
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