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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Jan 01, 2024  1 month, 3 weeks, 2 days, 19 hours, 37 minutes ago

Health News: Japanese Study Finds That Natto Consumption Suppresses Atherosclerotic Plaque Progression

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Health News: Japanese Study Finds That Natto Consumption Suppresses Atherosclerotic Plaque Progression
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Jan 01, 2024  1 month, 3 weeks, 2 days, 19 hours, 37 minutes ago
Health News: Atherosclerosis stands as a formidable global health challenge, with its chronic nature and propensity to lead to cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Amidst various dietary considerations, Natto, a traditional Japanese food derived from fermented soybeans, has long been under the scientific spotlight for its potential to mitigate cardiovascular risks. The elusive mechanisms behind its anti-atherosclerotic effects have spurred intensive research efforts. In a groundbreaking study covered in this Health News report, conducted by researchers at the University of Tsukuba, a comprehensive exploration unfolds, shedding light on the intricate interplay between Natto consumption, gut microbiota, and the suppression of inflammatory responses, providing valuable insights into potential therapeutic strategies.

Natto, A Healthy Japanese Dish Made From Soya Beans
Understanding Atherosclerosis and Macrophage Dynamics
Atherosclerosis, a complex and multifactorial disease, involves the gradual accumulation of lipids, inflammatory cells, and extracellular matrix components within arterial walls, leading to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. These plaques can evolve over time, eventually resulting in severe cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Key to atherosclerosis research is the localization of macrophages in atherogenic lesions, making them crucial markers for in vivo imaging.
In their recent study, researchers at the University of Tsukuba harnessed the power of near-infrared fluorescent protein (iRFP) technology to enable unique and non-invasive observation of foam cells expressing iRFP in atherosclerotic lesions. This innovative approach provides a precise means of monitoring disease progression, offering insights into the impact of interventions on macrophage dynamics within atherosclerotic lesions.
Natto's Positive Impact on Cardiovascular Health
Natto, a staple in Japanese cuisine, has garnered attention for its rich vitamin K2 content. Epidemiological studies have hinted at a potential inverse association between vitamin K2 intake and the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This association is thought to be linked to the ability of vitamin K2 to inhibit arterial calcification, enhance arterial elasticity, and modulate inflammation. Despite these promising observations, the intricate mechanisms underpinning Natto's anti-atherosclerotic effects have remained enigmatic, necessitating further preclinical and clinical investigations.
The study introduces three distinct Natto variants with varying vitamin K2 concentrations: high vitamin K (HVK), normal (NN), and low vitamin K (LVK). While the expectation was that the higher vitamin K2 content would correlate with stronger anti-atherosclerotic effects, the study surprised researchers by revealing similar effects across NN and LVK variants, prompting a deeper exploration into the multifaceted components of Natto beyond vitamin K2.
Natto's Impact on Gut Microbiota
Rece nt scientific endeavors have illuminated the critical role of gut microbiota in the development and progression of atherosclerosis. Changes in gut microbiota composition and diversity have been shown to influence immune responses, inflammation, and lipid metabolism - all factors implicated in atherosclerosis. Moreover, gut microbiota-derived metabolites, such as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), have been identified as drivers of atherosclerotic pathogenesis.
The study delves into the impact of Natto consumption on gut microbiota using an in vivo murine imaging model. The three Natto variants - HVK, NN, and LVK - were carefully evaluated for their effects on atherosclerosis, employing iRFP in a non-invasive imaging method. The results demonstrated that Natto intake, particularly HVK, led to alterations in microbial species abundance and distribution, suggesting a potential strengthening of the intestinal barrier function. These changes may contribute to the suppression of inflammation in the gut and systemic responses, thereby impacting the progression of atherosclerosis.
Molecular Insights into Natto's Anti-Atherosclerotic Effects
To unravel the molecular mechanisms behind Natto's anti-atherosclerotic effects, the study analyzed inflammatory markers and cytokine expression. Notably, serum CCL2 levels, a key chemotactic factor implicated in atherosclerotic lesion development, were significantly reduced in the HVK group. This reduction in serum CCL2 levels was associated with improvements in gut microbiota and a suppression of inflammation in the gut and systemic responses.
Further experiments with macrophages highlighted the ability of Natto extracts, particularly from HVK, to decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines while increasing the expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. These findings underscore the multifaceted impact of Natto on immune responses and suggest that its anti-atherosclerotic effects are not solely dependent on its vitamin K2 content. The study also explored the individual contributions of surfactin, a component of Natto bacteria, and vitamin K2 to these anti-inflammatory effects, revealing a complex interplay among various components.
Components of Natto: Beyond Vitamin K2
The study which conducted a comprehensive analysis of three Natto variants - HVK, NN, and LVK - revealed distinct characteristics in their composition. HVK Natto exhibited the highest values in terms of nattokinase activity, polyglutamic acid (PGA) content, bacterial count, and vitamin K2 content. Surprisingly, while the expectation was that higher vitamin K2 content would lead to stronger anti-atherosclerotic effects, the actual inhibitory effect was most significant in the HVK group, challenging preconceived notions.
The intricate analysis of gut microbiota data further revealed unexpected outcomes. Despite the anticipated effect sequence of HVK > NN > LVK based on component analysis, the actual outcome was HVK > NN = LVK in terms of anti-atherosclerotic impact. This discrepancy indicates that LVK may possess unique characteristics beyond its low vitamin K2 content, warranting further detailed research.
Implications for Cardiovascular Health and Future Directions
The comprehensive findings from the University of Tsukuba study provide compelling evidence supporting the anti-atherosclerotic potential of Natto. The intricate interplay between Natto consumption, gut microbiota modulation, and suppression of inflammatory responses offers new avenues for therapeutic strategies and dietary interventions against atherosclerosis—a critical global public health issue.
As Natto continues to be inversely correlated with cardiovascular disease mortality, the study paves the way for future investigations. Researchers now have the foundation to explore macrophage dynamics in atherosclerotic lesions, isolate functional components within Natto, and elucidate their specific mechanisms of action. The nuanced understanding of Natto's impact on gut microbiota and immune responses invites further exploration into personalized interventions tailored to individual microbiome profiles.
In conclusion, the study from the University of Tsukuba not only unravels the intricate mechanisms behind Natto's anti-atherosclerotic effects but also challenges conventional assumptions about the exclusive role of vitamin K2. The multifaceted nature of Natto, encompassing vitamin K2, surfactin, and other bacterial components, opens doors to innovative therapeutic strategies. With cardiovascular diseases continuing to pose a significant global burden, the potential of Natto as a dietary intervention offers a beacon of hope for preventing and managing atherosclerosis. As we delve deeper into the molecular intricacies of Natto, the journey towards unlocking its full therapeutic potential has only just begun.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Scientific Reports.
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