A vegan food renowned in Asia for its ability to protect against heart attacks (natto) also shows a powerful ability in lab experiments to prevent formation of the clumps of tangled protein involved in Alzheimer's disease, scientists in Taiwan are reporting. Their study is in the Feb. 11 issue of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.*
Rita P.Y. Chen and colleagues point out that people in Asia have been eating natto - a fermented food made from boiled soybeans - for more than 1,000 years.
Natto contains an enzyme, nattokinase (available as a dietary supplement), that has effects similar to clot-busting drugs used in heart disease. Supplemental nattokinase is sold as a support for a healthy circulatory system.
The scientists term this the first study on whether nattokinase also can dissolve amyloids. Those tangled proteins are involved in Alzheimer's disease and several other health problems.
In the study, the nattokinase degraded several kinds of amyloid fibrils, suggesting its possible use in the treatment of amyloid-related diseases.
"Moreover, since natto has been ingested by humans for a long time, it would be worthwhile to carry out an epidemiological study on the rate of occurrence of various amyloid-related diseases in a population regularly consuming natto," the scientists say.
* Cited report: "Amyloid-Degrading Ability of Nattokinase from Bacillus subtilis Natto," Feb 11, 2009, 57(2) pp 503-508.
Source: American Chemical Society news release, Feb 18, 2009