High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease have both seen a substantial increase in the 20th century and beyond, with significant impacts on public health and general wellness. Plenty of products have flooded the market to support healthy circulation, with claims of reduced blood pressure, improved cardiovascular health, and protection against the onset of heart disease. Unfortunately, many of these products also come with a slew of side effects and limited efficacy, with strong interactions with other types of medication. 

Enter a promising alternative: nattokinase. 

This simple supplement is a natural enzyme found in food, and may be the enzyme responsible for substantial decreases in blood pressure, blood clots, and improvements to brain health, heart health, and even metabolic health as a result of heavy fibrinolytic activity.

 

What is nattokinase?

Nattokinase is an enzyme extracted from a type of food called natto. The suffix "kinase" is used to denote an enzyme, or a property within food that helps more effectively break down or digest. In food, enzymes provide improved digestion. Elsewhere in the body, enzymes are used to properly break down different compounds and substrates in order to maintain health and function as an anticoagulant agent, dissolver of dead or dying human cells, and more.  

Bacillus subtilis natto has been called "vegetable cheese natto" due to the flavor produced during natto fermentation. Natto consumption produces the same pro-fibrinolytic enzyme as nattokinase, but its uses may be more limited than the supplement nattokinase. 

What is nattokinase used for?

Nattokinase is considered nature's natural blood thinner, with documented positive cardiovascular effects in clinical settings. Although blood thinning medication can be harmful for those with clotting disorders and other blood-related conditions, blood thinning medications are commonly prescribed for those with signs or symptoms of cardiovascular disease, in order to make sure that blood travels through the veins appropriately. When veins and arteries thicken--whether through plaque, red blood cell aggregation, scar tissue, or another entity entirely--blood can no longer move smoothly, leading to serious health conditions, including heart attack and stroke.

Nattokinase is rich in vitamin K1, a natural blood thinner or tissue plasminogen activator, and can alleviate some symptoms of heart disease and protect against the development of cardiovascular disease and decreased circulation through blood vessels. Nattokinase has even shown promise as a useful substance in dissolving amyloid fibrils, protein compounds linked to conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Think of it this way: the effect of nattokinase on carotid artery damage is substantial, because it allows blood to move freely, thereby boosting the body's ability to properly heal and deliver nutrients throughout the body all while preventing atherosclerotic plaques and improving heart health. 

While nattokinase is a supplement, it is not the only (or even primary) source of this component. Natto is a popular Japanese food and source of nutrition, and can be found regularly in other Asian countries. Consumption of nattokinase through natto itself may have a similar effect on blood circulation and levels of fibrinogen, though dietary supplements provide a therapeutic-level dose and food dosages can be harder to quantify.  

What are the 4 benefits of nattokinase?

Now let’s look at the main benefits of taking nattokinase.

1. Nattokinase can help prevent heart disease

Nattokinase has been shown to prevent chronic heart diseases by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. This groundbreaking clinical study determined that the blood thinning protein can successfully dissolve blood clots, preventing blood clots from lodging within arteries, and potentially preventing the likelihood of heart disease. 

2. Nattokinase can help prevent high blood pressure

Nattokinase has also been linked to the prevention of high blood pressure. The antioxidants found within nattokinase, including phenolics and flavonoids, can help prevent the onset of hypertension, thereby preventing heart disease. The enzymatic activity of oral nattokinase does not only prevent hypertension and decrease the risk of heart disease; it can also reduce existing hypertension symptoms and function as a supplementary treatment. 

3. Nattokinase can be used to protect against thrombosis

In a similar vein, nattokinase can be used as a protective agent against thrombosis, or a condition in which blood clots block arteries (typically in the extremities) and cause ischemic stroke. The health benefits of nattokinase are centered around the heart, and clinical trials determined that the plasminogen in blood clots was effectively converted to plasmin, thereby dissolving the clot and aiding in the prevention of thrombosis.  Another study supported this claim and found that nattokinase had anticoagulation effects by the ability of nattokinase to enhance fibrinolysis and increase blood flow. 

4. Nattokinase can help improve metabolism and strengthen gut health

While most of the research studies involving nattokinase focus on its heart-protecting abilities, nattokinase does offer other health benefits, chief among them improving metabolism and strengthening gut health and the intestinal tract. Nattokinase is developed through fermentation. Consequently, it is made up of healthy bacterial cells and can help support the growth of good bacteria in the intestinal tract. It has also been linked to improved metabolism and a decreased risk of diabetes and high weight. 

nattokinase for blood health

Recommended nattokinase dosage and form

In the United States, nattokinase is typically delivered in the form of a small tablet delivered in an oral dose. Because nutritional supplement dosages are not regulated in the same way as pharmaceutical interventions, there is no standard or agreed-upon dosage to reap the benefits of nattokinase. That being said, a 100 to 200 milligram daily intake is typically seen as the most common dosage in clinical trials, and may be effective in promoting improved health and warding against deep vein thrombosis, heart disease, metabolic disorders, and hypertension. 

Small companies may ship fresh natto, and many health food stores carry the food. Natto itself does contain the proteolytic enzyme and fibrinolytic enzyme linked to the improvement of health, and can be consumed rather than taking a supplement of nattokinase. Consuming the food itself, rather than a supplement, may offer some additional benefits, because the food has more probiotic bacteria and also provides fiber, calcium, vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Nevertheless, if fresh natto is not available in your area, a nattokinase supplement does provide the same heart-healthy effects as natto itself. 

How long does it take nattokinase to work?

As is the case with all types of medication, supplements, natural products, and even food, different biological compositions will have different efficacy rates and different timing. For a general idea of what to expect, this study determined that the fibrinolytic activity of nattokinase took between 2 and 8 hours to come to fruition. It is within this window that blood clotting, blood viscosity, blood circulation, and metabolic activity are all affected, and the effects of nattokinase on blood pressure, ischemic stroke risk, and overall health can be observed. 

As is also the case with other forms of medication and supplementation and natural products, the effects will not conclude one time; you will not see existing hypertension disappear within a single day, nor will intimal thickening and blood clotting immediately disappear. Instead, regular use--or use during a prescribed period of time--will perpetuate consistent changes to systolic and diastolic blood pressure, blood clots, metabolic processes, and more. Just as the progression of carotid artery atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular conditions take time, reversing existing damage takes time. 

What is the best time to take nattokinase?

Most antihypertensive drugs direct users to take antihypertensive drugs in the evening. Consequently, the general recommendation is to take nattokinase at night, or directly before bed. The same is true of eating natto, if you are eating it for the enzyme nattokinase. The daily dose is recommended in the evening or at night in order to work in the body while resting and during the period most commonly associated with thrombus, or blood clotting. Any dizziness associated with the blood thinning effect of nattokinase can also be avoided by taking the supplement during a period in which you are lying down or slowing down for the day. 

What are the side effects of nattokinase?

Nattokinase is primarily known for its ability to improve blood pressure and overall heart health in both a human study and in animal studies. Because it has positive effects on intimal thickening and blood pressure, it can have adverse effects for people with medical conditions such as low blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, and even those who are due to undergo surgery within the near future. Human trials have yet to determine any adverse effects in other populations.

Nattokinase Benefits FAQs 

Can nattokinase or natto be made at home?

Natto can be made at home, by fermenting soybeans using a specific process involving a strain of bacteria called bacillus subtilis. "Vegetable cheese natto" or "bacillus natto" is a popular soybean food found in Asian countries and like most traditional foods, can be made at home using a bacillus subtilis culture (which is responsible for the development of nattokinase's fibrinolytic agent). Home-made natto has not been evaluated to the same degree as nattokinase or its store-bought fermented food counterparts, and therefore may not produce the same effects or benefits as more thoroughly regulated or singularly produced natto.   

Is nattokinase the safest blood thinner?

Nattokinase can be a safe blood thinner, because it does not have the same negative side effects as many pharmaceutical blood thinners. Its effects of thrombolytic activity make it an ideal blood thinner for anyone experiencing blood clots, high blood pressure, varicose veins, venous thrombosis, or impaired cardiovascular function, but may not be safe for anyone with blood clotting disorders or upcoming surgeries. Natto intake may be similarly problematic.

Can nattokinase raise blood pressure?

It does just the opposite. Nattokinase is considered a useful supplement for pulmonary disease, heart disease, and hypertension specifically because its mechanisms of action attack thickening blood and, subsequently, high blood pressure. Across the board, nattokinase acts as a blood pressure lowering agent, which makes it potentially hazardous for individuals with already-low blood pressure or those with blood clotting disorders. While nattokinase does not raise blood pressure, it can still be unsuitable for individuals with high blood pressure, if those individuals have hypertension, or are due for an upcoming surgery.

Is natto good for kidneys?

The effects of nattokinase on kidneys are not direct, and the supplement is not recommended as a kidney support tool. Instead, there can be positive effects on cholesterol levels, peripheral artery disease, cardiovascular health, and general arterial and vein health, all of which support and improve kidney function. Hypertension has a negative effect on the kidneys by damaging the arteries near the kidneys, limiting essential blood flow to the area. When nattokinase improves hypertension, it effectively improves the likelihood of maintaining healthy kidneys. 

Who shouldn't take nattokinase?

Studies have demonstrated that nattokinase does not possess a toxicological effect, but it is unsuitable for its thrombolytic effects in people with existing low blood pressure due to its amyloid-degrading ability and potential to cause blood pressure drops. There are no documented instances of potential drug interactions with other medications, though nattokinase is not generally recommended for people with scheduled surgeries, as blood thinners can complicate surgical procedures.

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