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The Anti-Clotting Power of Nattokinase

Every few months, I travel overseas to visit some family members. One of the major problems in the ten plus-hour flight is that of jet lag. Fortunately, I have discovered something very useful for jet lag, a nutrient called NADH, which I take 10 mg of on the morning I arrive back in the United States. There are actually published studies proving NADH has many benefits, including alleviating jet lag.

However, another problem developed on my most recent trip, about three weeks ago, and that was leg swelling. When I got off the overseas flight on the morning I returned to the United States, I noticed that I had some swelling of my ankles and lower legs. This was obviously very upsetting to me, as a 54-year old, otherwise entirely healthy man. Fortunately, by the next day, the swelling was gone. As a physician, I realized that along with leg swelling, there is the clear risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT).

In my twenty years as a practicing physician, I have seen many patients who were literally taken off of the plane upon landing in Newark, New Jersey, and were then rushed to the hospital, having either suffered a pulmonary embolus, heart attack or stroke as a result of blood clotting formed during the flight. In a study published in Lancet, it was estimated that there are 200,000 cases of DVT reported each year in the United States and half of them are actually caused by air travel.

In my efforts to find something to counteract this potentially life-threatening condition, I came across a rather fascinating nutrient called nattokinase. Nattokinase is derived from a cheese-like food called natto. Natto is produced via a fermentation process that involves adding beneficial bacteria to boiled soybeans. As it turns out, nattokinase is a very powerful enzyme that can dissolve blood clots.

In the journal Angiology from October 2003, researchers did an experiment with this enzyme. 204 individuals were randomized into two groups. One group was given this enzyme, and the other group was given placebo. All individuals then took long flights, at least seven to eight hours. Ultrasound of the legs was done before and immediately after the flights. In the treated group, none of the individuals were noted to develop DVT, whereas in the control group, five subjects (5.4%) had developed DVT. Prior to the flight, both groups of individuals had a similar amount of leg edema.

After the flight, however, the people treated with placebo had a 12% increase in edema in comparison to a 15% decrease in leg swelling in those individuals treated with the enzyme. The researchers concluded that this enzyme was effective in reducing blood clotting events and in controlling leg swelling in high-risk subjects in long flights.

Nattokinase does much more than reduce the risks of leg swelling and DVT. It also appears to have a beneficial effect on reducing cardiovascular risk factors. In a study published last year in the journal Pathophysiology of Hemostasis and Thrombosis, blood clotting was studied in rats. It was found that rats that were fed nattokinase significantly reduced abnormal blood clotting.

Nattokinase has been used safely for over twenty years. One of the leading authorities on this nutrient is Dr. Ralph Holsworth. According to Dr. Holsworth, one out of every four people in the United States has a genetic predisposition for increased blood thickness, leading to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Nattokinase has reportedly been shown to decrease blood thickness, which thereby improves oxygenation of tissue (and reduces any potential damage).

Nattokinase appears to dissolve the fibrin clot directly and seems to have a more long-lasting action compared to traditional anti-thrombin-type drugs, which carry with them the potential for abnormal bleeding. Nattokinase may actually even have some beneficial effect for promoting normal blood pressure. What is interesting about nattokinase is that it can actually be used with traditional blood thinners, although I would frankly not recommend that, unless you speak to your physician about this and get their approval.

I am happy to announce that Nutraceutical Sciences Institute (NSI) has recently released a nattokinase product. Each 100 mg capsule contains 2,000 fibrinolytic units of activity. Compared to other products on the market, the NSI product is up to several times more powerful and is a better value. I look forward to using this product, and especially for taking it on my next overseas flight.

By Allen S. Josephs, M.D.
Board Certified Neurologist and Internist.
Printed with permission with a few small edits made for clarity.

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