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“I was having my coffee and suddenly I dropped the mug, when I called out for help, my words were so slurred that no one could understand me.”

There are a range of experiences of how a stroke feels: sudden dizziness, numbness in the arms or legs, sudden weakness in your limbs, or a loss of vision. There are few health problems that are as striking and surprising as a stroke. Strokes are quite common and make up part of the total amount of cardiovascular disease burden. Strokes are the third leading cause of death for Canadians and are the fourth leading cause of death for Americans. In this article I will outline the potential benefits of the supplement Nattokinase in the area of blood clot and stroke prevention.

What is nattokinase?

Nattokinase is an enzyme that breaks down proteins. This enzyme is naturally found in a type of fermented soy, traditionally called ‘Natto’ and is commonly consumed in parts of Japan as a condiment. The food Natto has a sticky cheese-like consistency and has a strong odor. Natto has been used in Japan as a traditional remedy for heart and circulatory problems. Supplements are made from Natto by purifying the Natto to extract the active Nattokinase enzyme, removing the odor.

How does nattokinase help in the deterrence of strokes and blood clots?

First of all, blood clots form when blood fails to circulate properly or when there is damage to the blood vessel. Once damaged, a series of events occur that leads to platelets (small blood cells) to accumulate and form a plug where the blood vessel is damaged, followed by an accumulation of fibrin protein (stimulated by blood clotting proteins) that makes the plug even stronger. This plug stops blood flow and in the case of most strokes, proper flow stops oxygenated blood coming to the brain, which quickly causes the symptoms of a stroke.

Based on the benefits found from the food Natto, the purified and concentrated enzyme extract, Nattokinase, has been suggested to be used for cardiovascular health promotion. Taiwanese researchers published a landmark study in 2009 in the medical journal Nutrition Research, outlining the effects of Nattokinase. The researchers monitored three important blood clotting proteins in 45 patients given Nattokinase. There were three groups that received the Nattokinase supplement that were under investigation: healthy (normal) participants, patients with cardiovascular disease and a group undergoing kidney dialysis. During the two month study, the levels of the three blood clotting factors gradually decreased, between 7-19% in all three types of patients. No significant adverse effects were found in any of the participants. The researchers concluded that Nattokinase could be considered a cardiovascular neutraceutical, to reduce the clotting factors associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk.

Another follow-up Japanese animal study in 2011 also found that Nattokinase reduced the level of the blood clotting protein, fibrinogen, as well as blood pressure.

By breaking down and reducing the fibrinogen level, the blood’s ability to clot is reduced. On this basis, Nattokinase has the potential to reduce the likelihood of clots forming in the body, including in the brain, which may reduce the chance of developing a stroke. This is a significant and important finding, considering that 30% of Canadians and 40% of Americans die from cardiovascular disease. Nattokinase is potentially very useful adjunct in reducing the risk of strokes and other vascular problems, especially when combined with other healthy lifestyle and dietary changes.

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Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.