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New Research: NATTO: A Japanese Food Turned Western Dietary Supplement
By Jen Morganti, ND NEEDS Education Director

Natto is a fermented soybean food, which has been consumed in Japan for over 1,000 years. Long known as a folk remedy for heart and vascular diseases, it offers an enzyme called nattokinase that has been shown to help break down clots. Because natto has an unusual flavor and texture that is not typically appreciated in western cultures, it eventually became a dietary supplement available in pill form.

Nattokinase is produced through a fermentation process using beneficial bacteria, called Bacillus subtillus, that's added to boiled soybeans. Soybeans contain a variety of enzymes, but only through the fermentation process is the potent nattokinase produced. This process creates an enzyme with "fibrinolytic" activity, which gives the nattokinase the ability to break down the fibrin material that makes up blood clots. By preventing clot formation and breaking down existing clots in blood vessels, nattokinase helps reduce the threat of a stroke or heart attack.

According to the CDC, a stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the US, accounting for 1 out of 20 deaths. Stroke is also a major cause of disability in Americans. The primary medications for preventing clots are blood thinners, such as warfarin and heparin. While these drugs are very effective at preventing and breaking down clots, they can have serious side effects associated with taking them and shouldn't be used unless absolutely necessary.

Nattokinase is an excellent alternative to these powerful medications because there is an extremely low risk of it causing serious side effects. It can safely be used by people who want to prevent excessive clotting through naturally balancing their clotting system.

Nattokinase has a rich history of supporting a healthy cardiovascular system. Recently, a very large study was conducted to assess its value, along with unfermented soy products. This study sought to determine if eating soy products or natto decreased the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), including stroke and heart disease. Almost 29,000 adults participated in the study and their diets were tracked for 16 years. It is very important to note that when a study has such a large number of participants that are followed for such a long period of time, the results tend to be more significant and convincing.

Just under 1,700 out of the close to 29,000 people died of cardiovascular disease over the course of the research, with the majority of the causes being stroke and ischemic heart disease (IHD)—a narrowing of blood vessels on the heart, which can lead to a heart attack. It was found that the participants with the highest intake of natto had a decreased risk of death from CVD as compared to those who ate the least amount of natto. The people who consumed the greatest amount of natto had the lowest risk of dying from stroke and also had a reduced risk of IHD.

This study strongly supports the use of nattokinase for cardiovascular health. This highly beneficial supplement could be a wise choice for Americans wishing to reduce their risk of stroke and heart attack, without the significant side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.

Dietary soy and natto intake and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japanese adults: the Takayama study. Am J Clin Nutr. (February 2017). vol. 105 no. 2 426-431;

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