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22 April 2009

Natto enzyme may boost heart health in at-risk people

By Stephen Daniells, 16-Apr-2009

Related topics: Research, Soy-based ingredients, Cardiovascular health

Nattokinase, an enzyme extracted from fermented soy, may reduce levels of compounds linked to blood clotting, and cut the risk of heart disease in people at-risk of the disease, suggests new research from Taiwan.

The enzyme was found to be able to reduce levels of blood clotting (coagulation) factors such as fibrinogen, factor VII, and factor VIII in 45 men and women, according to results of a study published in the Nutrition Research.

“These results, namely, the observed reduction of the coagulation factors of fibrinogen, factor VII, and factor VIII, suggest that nattokinase administration can be considered as a CVD nutraceutical,” wrote the authors, led by Chien-Hsun Hsia from Changhua Christian Hospital.

“To our knowledge, this study is the first clinical trial reported in the literature to investigate the effects of nattokinase on the CVD-associated coagulation factors.”

The rise of nattokinase

At SupplySide West in Las Vegas last year, Vincent Hackel, CEO and president of Japan Bio Science Laboratory-USA, told NutraIngredients that growth in nattokinase supplements was doubling every year. “Nattokinase is right on the cusp of taking off,” he said. JBSL-USA’s nattokinase was not used in the new study.

The majority of science has focused on reducing blood pressure and the prevention of blood clots. According to Hackel, nattokinase supplements have been available in the US for about five years and for two years in Europe.

Study details

Hsai and his co-workers recruited 45 people and divided them into three groups depending on their health profile: healthy volunteers, patients with cardiovascular risk factors, and dialysis patients.

The open-label, self-controlled clinical trial involved the participants a daily dose of 800 milligrams of nattokinase for two months.

After two months of supplementation, the researchers noted that levels of fibrinogen, factor VII, and factor VIII had fallen by 9, 14, and 17 per cent, respectively, in the healthy individuals; by 7, 13, and 19 per cent, respectively, in the CVD risk group; and 10, 7, and 19, respectively, in the dialysis patients.

No changes in blood lipid levels were observed, added the researchers.

Importantly, no adverse effects were noted by the researchers, leading them to state that nattokinase was “safe and in healthy volunteers, patients with high-risk CVD factors, and dialysis patients”.

How it works

“Fibrinogen is involved in primary haemostasis and is the major determinant of whole blood and plasma viscosity; elevated plasma fibrinogen levels are known to be independently associated with CVD,” wrote Hsai and his co-workers. “According to the present results, nattokinase supplementation can ameliorate blood viscosity and may reduce the incidence of CVD.

“In addition, both factors VII and VIII have been reported to have cross-sectional association with atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease and, prospectively, with coronary heart disease, stroke, ischemic heart disease, and diabetes mellitus.

“The potent effects of nattokinase on lowering blood level of factor VII and factor VIII may imply that it can be considered as a nutraceutical for several types of CVD,” they added.


The researchers said that the results should be interpreted cautiously since the study was self-controlled and open-label. “Because of the study design, further investigations following a randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled design are needed for validation of the results,” they concluded.

Source: Nutrition Research
Volume 29, Issue 3, Pages 190-196
“Nattokinase decreases plasma levels of fibrinogen, factor VII, and factor VIII in human subjects”
Authors: C.-H. Hsia, M.-C. Shen, J.-S. Lin, Y.-K. Wen, K.-L. Hwang, T.-M. Cham, N.-C. Yang

Study links swimming pool chlorine to asthma


BOYS WHO swim frequently in swimming pools may be at increased risk of developing asthma, new research has found.

A study of 6- to 12-year-old boys carried out by Dr Tony Ryan and colleagues in the Department of Paediatrics at University College Cork found a significant association between the number of years a boy had been swimming and the likelihood of the child being wheezy in the past year. The greater the number of years a boy had been attending an indoor chlorinated pool, the greater the likelihood of him having asthma, the researchers found.
Parents of some 121 boys attending a national school in Cork city were questioned about how often the boys went swimming in chlorinated indoor pools. The results showed most boys did so once a week. They had been swimming for an average of five years at the time of the study.

No link was found between prevalence of asthma and parental smoking. But a significant link existed between the number of years spent swimming and a diagnosis of asthma, as well as whether a boy had experienced wheezing in the previous 12 months.

The research, in the current issue of the Irish Medical Journal – the journal of the Irish Medical Organisation – reflects a link identified in Belgian research in 2003.

The authors of the Irish study say a range of chlorine products are used in swimming pools, including chlorine gas. “When organic matter is introduced into chlorinated water (eg urine and sweat), a harmful mixture of by-products is created,” they say, adding that the most concentrated by-product found is nitrogen trichloride. This is a known respiratory irritant, and the authors suggest that chronic exposure to an indoor, chlorinated environment may be a risk factor in the development of asthma in boys.

While acknowledging their study is relatively small and relies on subjective responses by parents, the Cork paediatricians conclude: “Until the relationship between respiratory health and chlorination of swimming pools is investigated further and accurate information is available, every effort should be made to improve pool ventilation and enforce better swimmer hygiene.”

Blueberries May Help Reduce Belly Fat, Diabetes Risk

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2009) — Could eating blueberries help get rid of belly fat? And could a blueberry-enriched diet stem the conditions that lead to diabetes? A new University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center study suggests so.
The new research, presented April 19 at the Experimental Biology convention in New Orleans, gives tantalizing clues to the potential of blueberries in reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. The effect is thought to be due to the high level of phytochemicals – naturally occurring antioxidants – that blueberries contain.

The study was performed in laboratory rats. While the animal findings suggest blueberries may be protective against two health conditions that affect millions of Americans, more research should be done.

The researchers studied the effect of blueberries (freeze dried blueberries crushed into a powder) that were mixed into the rat diet, as part of either a low- or high-fat diet. They performed many comparisons between the rats consuming the test diets and the control rats receiving no blueberry powder. All the rats were from a research breed that is prone to being severely overweight.

In all, after 90 days, the rats that received the blueberry-enriched powder, measured as 2 percent of their diet, had less abdominal fat, lower triglycerides, lower cholesterol, and improved fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity, which are measures of how well the body processes glucose for energy.

While regular blueberry intake reduced these risks for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, the health benefits were even better when combined with a low-fat diet.

In addition to all the other health benefits, the group that consumed a low-fat diet had lower body weight, lower total fat mass and reduced liver mass, than those who ate a high fat diet. An enlarged liver is linked to obesity and insulin resistance, a hallmark of diabetes.

The rats in the study were similar to Americans who suffer fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome as a result of high-fat diets and obesity. Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that include too much fat around the waist, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, high triglycerides, and together these conditions increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

But were the health benefits seen in rats a result of losing abdominal fat, or something else?

“Some measurements were changed by blueberry even if the rats were on a high fat diet,” says E. Mitchell Seymour, M.S., lead researcher and manager of the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory. “We found by looking at fat muscle tissue, that blueberry intake affected genes related to fat-burning and storage. Looking at muscle tissue, we saw altered genes related to glucose uptake.”

Steven Bolling, M.D., a U-M heart surgeon and head of the Cardioprotection Laboratory, says: “The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables has been well-researched, but our findings in regard to blueberries shows the naturally occurring chemicals they contain, such as anthocyanins, show promise in mitigating these health conditions.”

Although the current study was supported by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, which also supplied the blueberry powder, the council did not play a role in the study’s conduct, analysis or the preparation of the poster presentation.

Saturated Fats and Health: Facts and Feelings

Organizers: M. Paques, S. Oude Elferink, Y. Verbeek, Friesland Foods, the Netherlands; P. Huth, PJH Nutritional Sciences, USA; and K. Dewettinck, University of Ghent, Belgium.

Co-chairs: Koenraad Duhem, CNIEL, France; R. Feinman, SUNY Downstate, New York, USA.

While they currently have a poor image, especially in relation to cardiovascular health, saturated fat from plants and animals has been an important ingredient in many Western and non-Western diets for centuries. Recent evidence, in fact, suggests that the role of saturated fatty acids needs to be re-examined. While some studies show that long-chain saturated fatty acids raise LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, the so-called "bad" cholesterol), the predictive power of LDL cholesterol level for CVD risk is limited and alternative measures including LDL particle size, LDL (glyc)oxidation state, triglyceride levels HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels and inflammatory markers may be more important. Some of these markers are actually improved by the consumption of saturated fat or the substitution of saturated fat for carbohydrate.

In addition, recent research shows that saturated fatty acids cannot be considered as a single group. In the human body, each saturated fatty acid has a specific functions depending on its chain length. Finally, it is important to realize that we are not eating individual fatty acids, but complex foods. Does scientific knowledge, for example, warrant a limit on full-cream dairy products because of their saturated fat content?
The presentations:

Does Current Scientific Data Warrant Aggressive Lowering of Saturated Fat in our Diets?
Bruce German, Department of Food Science and Technology, USA.

The recent history of public recommendations for dietary intakes of macronutrients have targeted total fat, cholesterol and saturated fat intake as the principle means to improve human health. Such recommendations have been translated into a long term agricultural objective of eliminating these components from human foods. Agricultural change requires changes at many points over many years to eliminate these components from human foods. Once accomplished, such changes would be equally difficult to reverse. The relation between dietary intake of fats and health is intricate. Is it possible evolution found benefits to saturated fatty acids that current recommendations do not consider?

Is saturated fat consumption a major dietary risk factor for CHD - what is the evidence?
Darius Mozaffarian, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard University, USA

Review of RCTs and observational studies of saturated fat consumption and lipid risk factors and risk of clinical CHD events. Evaluation of whether effects on CHD risk depend on the particular replacement nutrient, e.g., PUFA, MUFA, trans, or carbohydrate. Review of evidence for potential differences depending on population groups (e.g. men, women, elderly).

High Carbohydrate Versus High Saturated Fat Diets and Health: "You are not what you eat, but what your body does with what you eat"
J. S. Volek, University of Connecticut, Neag School of Education, USA.

High carbohydrate diets, not the saturated fat, are the culprit in many western health problems.

The Impact of Dairy on Health.
Paul Elwood, Cardiff University , Department of Epidemiology, UK.

Review of epidemiological and intervention studies with regard the health effects of dairy, including studies with low fat and full cream products.

The Role of Saturated Fatty Acids in our Body is Strongly Linked to their Chain Length. Each Saturated Fatty Acid has its own Merits.
Phillipe Legrand, Agrocampus-INRA , France.

Short discussion of each saturated fatty acid and its role. Specific emphasis on myristic acid and its relation to elongation of omega-3 fatty acids.