Natto Beans and Nattokinase for Heart Health
We are seeing an increasing number of ultra-sport events. For example, Australia’s 19.7 kilometer (12.2 miles), open-ocean Rottnest Channel Swim race had 173 solo entrants in 2011, up from 100 in 2001. With this increased ultra-sport participation has come an increased demand for knowledge about cutting edge nutrition that can improve performance and longevity.
There are no official rules that define ultra-sport distances, but in running, ultra-endurance events are typically defined as longer than the 26-mile marathon. In cycling, ultra-endurance is longer than the 100-mile century and for swimming the ultra-sport distance is 10K (6.2 miles) or more.
One food touted by ultra-sport athletes are natto beans or nattokinase extract. Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis. There are strong indications that natto can help maintain heart health, help prevent circulatory disease thus increasing longevity.
The primary heart healthy medicinal isolates in natto are pyrazine and vitamin K2. Pyrazine is a compound that reduces the likelihood of blood clotting. Various clinical studies indicate that natto can lower the body’s blood pressure which is one of the biggest threats to longevity. Natto beans also contain a serine protease type enzyme called nattokinase. Nattokinase exhibits a strong fibrinolytic activity. Fibrinolysis is a process that prevents blood clots from growing and causing thrombosis, as for example in heart attacks, pulmonary embolism, or strokes. Amyloid fibrils can build up as plaque in the brain leading to brain cell damage and Alzheimer’s disease. Simply stated, nattokinase may be potentially useful as a clot-buster and blood thinner. Natto beans are also high in vitamin K which is excellent in maintaining bone density. Current research indicates that K2 can aid cardiovascular health by preventing or even reversing arterial calcification which is known contributor to cardiovascular disease. For this benefit, choose a natto extract that does not have vitamin K2 removed.
Many Western ultra-athletes take nattokinase in capsule form because it is convenient and because natto beans are a very acquired taste. They are commonly described as “rancid (think blue cheese), stinky beans with a slimy texture”, but you can decide if you choose to prepare them. A common dosage is 2,000 FU per day.