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Natto -- does the slime that's sublime really protect from the coronavirus?

29 Comments

In 1992, an insidious, sometimes fatal virus for which no cure existed was infecting people, and multiplying exponentially. Japan's own rates of infection remained fairly low, but people were concerned and in the absence of definitive explanations sought the advice of experts.

At least some sought to bolster their immune systems with the miracle food: natto.

When asked if consumption of natto would help ward off AIDS, a physician told a popular weekly men's magazine, "Well it can't hurt, and it's good for you, so you might as well eat it anyway."

For the uninitiated, natto is fermented soybeans. High in protein and with other beneficial nutrients, yet inexpensive, they are widely consumed in the eastern part of Japan, which statistically may boast a lower incidence of stroke thanks to the consumption thereof.

Unfortunately, natto has an unattractive appearance, slimy consistency and ammonia-like odor that tend to alienate both people in western Japan and all but the most adventuresome foreigners.

But now, reports Yukan Fuji (March 18), natto is once again in high demand, flying off store shelves as people have somehow got it into their heads that it might offer some protection against the novel coronavirus.

One reason for this perception may be due to Ibaraki Prefecture -- the center of natto production in Japan -- which no cases of infection until March 17, when the media reported the first case, a Hitachi worker who had recently returned to Japan from Italy.

Up to that point at least, the fermented beans had been enjoying unusually high demand. It seems that from around mid-February people posting on social networks had noticed that natto was often sold out in stores. Others, with no evidence to support their claims, were suggesting consumption of natto might help ward off coronavirus infection.

Transposing the statistics for natto consumption (during 2017 through 2019) with reported cases of the outbreak, we can see why some might be led to think so. The nation's top consumers of natto, in descending order, were the regional cities of Fukushima, Morioka, Mito, Yamagata, Maebashi, Nagano and Sendai.

And the number of reported cases in the prefectures that hosted the above cities? Just two cases in Fukushima, one in Ibaraki, and zero in Iwate and Yamagata.

The run on natto appears to have been set off after Jan 30, when the National Cancer Research Center reported that its survey had found "lower risks of death from respiratory diseases from people with high consumption of natto."

A spokesperson for the Japan Natto Cooperative Society Federation told Yukan Fuji, "Around the start of February, demand for natto was doing well, but as more people flocked to stores during the panic buying of toilet paper and other item, they also purchased natto, instant cup noodles, yogurt, eggs and so on. And as more kids stayed home from school and ate at home, demand jumped even more, and stores began running out of natto. This may have led some people to circulate unfounded remarks to the effect that natto was effective in warding off the new coronavirus."

Whoa, let's get this straight: In other words, rather than rumors setting off panic buying, it's the sales that were responsible for generating the rumors? Apparently so.

On March 10, the government's Consumer Affairs Agency issued an advisory warning people against health food labeling claims of beneficial effects against the coronavirus. Among them was one that asserted, "The virus can't defeat natural straw-wrapped natto! It destroys the membrane on the germs that causes pneumonia!"

Shipments of natto at present are said to be up by 20% over the same period of 2019. The aforementioned industry spokesperson observed, "Sold- out food invites even more demand, and also generates misinformation. It requires two to three days to produce natto, and as procurement of the ingredients also takes time, we would hope to see consumers taking it easy and not overdoing it."

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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I like a bit of natto myself. Hard to get here in Australia, though. Even in Japan, the only people I've seen eating it are oyajis. Maybe that's how they get to be oyajis.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I tried it once. Not to my taste. You're welcome to empty the shops of it.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Does not protect against the virus. The wife eats all of ours. Hate the stuff.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Why is the media promoting this nonsense.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

I doubt it protects against coronavirus but it is supposed to be good for you. I don't really like the sticky texture but my kids can't get enough of the stuff.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Also, wouldn't a label saying that natto can defeat the virus be a crime? Does Japan have false advertising laws?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Can't vouch for its immunity benefits, but for me the taste isn't as bad as its reputation. Wife likes it and forced me to eat it or I wouldn't get any dessert.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Definitely not the sort of thing to eat on a blind date...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

For those who turned away from natto, try it with some grated vegetable over it. 'Daikon' (white radish?) or carrot are pretty good, one adding some spicy notes and the other kinda citric, while also helping with the definitely bad smell.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I'd rather get the virus. Wish I could stomach the stuff as it's healthy, cheap, easy to prepare but it remains the worst food I have ever tasted in my life.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I don't mind it. My local Chinese grocery has it (so far anyway) as does the Japanese supermarket nearer to Perth city (Australia). I make my own Aussie version - slice of toast, natto on top, then a good helping of sesame-flavoured shredded wakame, and top off with slices of cheddar cheese. Grill until golden brown. Enjoy! Been eating this as a light lunch for a few years now. Whether it will protect me from the virus is entirely another story. I'll let you know in a couple of years :P :P

2 ( +3 / -1 )

i found it vile at first but have grown to like it over the years....

won't keep the virus away but it is supposed to be good for your digestive tract..

I would eat natto over some of the rubbish served up in American diners.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

When it comes to coronavirus, natto is about as useful as saltwater.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

May my last meal be a bowl of rice topped with natto, onions, mustard, soy sauce and a raw egg!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

What utter nonsense some people believe. It would be an insult to pseudoscience to call this nonsense pseudoscientific.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I love it. Makes your virile and fertile.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Rather than claiming natto as a protection against coronavirus, it's better to take a more wholistic view of fermented foods in general - such as natto, miso, yoghurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi etc etc.

Without doubt science has proved that fermented foods are beneficial for the immune system as a healthy intestinal bacteria source - 80% of our immune system is in the gut. Essentiially our gut is our immune system.

And it is our immune system that is our protection.

A short clip :

Immune benefits of fermented foods.

Lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus paracasei (found in naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt) produces the enzyme lactocepin. This enzyme destroys immune system messengers called chemokines. In a healthy gut, chemokines guide defense cells to an infection but they exacerbate an autoimmune response in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease. As a result, consuming sources of lactic acid bacteria potentially reduces the autoimmune responses in the body (Technische Universitaet Muenchen, 2012).*

*A strain of the probiotic Bifidobacteria secretes gama-aminobutyric acid. Macrophages, immune cells that engulf bacteria and virus-infested cells, have butyric acid receptors and–when activated by a presence of the acid–lead to a reduction in the production of inflammatory compounds (American Society for Microbiology, 2012).*

*The cell walls of Bifidobacterium contain Muramil Dipeptide, a substance which activates the synthesis of lymphocytes (Campbell-McBride, 2010). Lymphocytes, immune cells that produce antibodies, are responsible for acquired immunity (Campbell et al, 2009).*

*In one study, scientists examined the effect of kefir (probiotic-rich fermented milk) on the immune functions of young rats. The rats were given kefir daily for 28 days and inoculated with cholera toxin (CT) on two different days during the period. The young rats eating a daily dose of kefir exhibited significantly higher CT antibodies than the control group (Thoreux, Douglas, 2001).*

In addition there has been lots of research recently concerning the vagus nerve, also known as the gut - brain axis.The vagus nerve is vital for keeping our bodies healthy and free from disease by regulating our immune systems, controlling stress levels and reducing inflammation. It is a critical part of our parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, it plays a major role in reducing stress, lowering elevated heart and breathing rates, preventing unnecessary long-term inflammation and resetting your immune system so it doesn’t overreact and over respond.

There is tons of evidence supporting the health benefits of fermented foods. Natto while not being a miracle anti covid-19 food, certainly would be better than a gutful of fried meat in helping to fight bacterial / viral infections.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Natto with mustard and soya sauce is heavenly.

It’ll definitely not prevent Coronavirus, but will definitely make my meals nutritious!!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Natto with mustard and soya sauce is heavenly.

Send me to hell

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The STANK from natto scares off any sane virus, I BELIEVE!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Eating natto allows the body to expel almost anything within a short time...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some serious natto haters here! LOL! Yeah some of my best friends hate it but I LOVE it with a passion!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Send me to hell

Without Natto, mustard and Soya sauce , you are already there!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Send me to hell

Without Natto, mustard and Soya sauce , you are already there!!

I’ll stick with the smell of burned naughty people and sulphur.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I’ll stick with the smell of burned naughty people and sulphur.

That would be cannibalism!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You guys are making me hungry. Think i will head into the kitchen for a snack of Natto.

Was reading up how to make my own from scratch using an instant pot. My wife is shaking her head in dismay over this discovery. Just have to get some soybeans

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I make natto at home frequently, but I do not do so in the way people promote on YouTube. Instead of having the oven on very low, I use an electric hotplate. I place one vessel inside another one, the inner one containing the steamed soya beans mixed with natto spores, the outer one containing water. I keep the water at 37-40 degrees C. It needs covering - a saucepan lid over the larger saucepan works fine, though make sure there is sufficient of this moist air for the fermenting bacteria to breathe.

At first I was very impatient and used to mix the spores in with the steamed beans when the beans were still very hot. I made great natto that way. Later on, I decided to be disciplined and wait till the beans had cooled to the right temperature - only to find that nothing happened, I couldn't make natto any more! Eventually I discovered a tip that you do have to put the spores in when the beans are very hot, in order to 'wake them up'. So impatience is sometimes a virtue! I went back to my old ways and was able to make natto again.

Another tip is: only soak the soya beans in unfiltered water. If you use an activated charcoal filter to purify your water and then this water comes into contact with the natto bacteria, it will significantly inhibit it. I proved this experimentally and have the photographs to show the difference.

I would be wary of eating bought natto because the preservative that they have to use reacts with vitamin C, and this is especially problematic in the case of the coronavirus outbreak since the primary defence against coronavirus is vitamin C. The preservative used in natto is E211, or Sodium Benzoate, and when this chemical combines with ascorbic acid, it leaves a benzene residue. Benzene is extremely toxic.

Natto is certainly incredibly antibacterial, and I like to think it might be antiviral and antiparasitic also, but there is a dearth of evidence supporting the latter conjecture. Anything which supports the lungs can only be helpful with coronavirus, however, and I believe nattokinase, which natto produces, is good for the lungs.

There is another, easy to understand way that natto can be helpful with viruses and other parasites: by killing off swathes of bad bacteria, it frees up resources for protecting you against viruses and parasites - and even cancer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've understood now. It is actually bacteria that turn a mild attack of coronavirus into a killer condition. What happens in severe cases is that the virus leaves the lungs defenceless to bacterial attack, and then the bacteria go in there and cause pneumonia. The bacteria can get through the lungs' defences because coronavirus has caused the destruction of the epithelial cells that line, and normally protect them.

So this is how natto protects you. You will notice, if you consume natto, that in a matter of hours this friendly bacteria has spread out from the gut and has taken up station in every corner of your body. You can tell this is so because in no time at all the unmistakable odour comes out in your poo and under your arms. If you were in need of a shower, you will be no longer because Bacillium subtilis natto will have overcome even the odour-producing bacteria under your arms.

To many, what has replaced the odour-producing bacteria will be even worse - but not to natto lovers such as me. People should control their likes and dislikes. If you know that something is good for you, you should simply love it unqualifiedly. Open your heart to it! The effect of this love is to alter your perception of the beloved. It is not true only of humans; it is true of food as well: what you love, you learn in time to like and in the end you can't live without it.

I have come across scientific research which reveals that the excretions of natto are selectively harmful to Streptococcus pneumoniae and Bacillus subtilis - which I find very odd because natto IS Bacillus subtilis, so how can it excrete substances that are harmful to itself? Nevertheless, it is interesting that it has a particular antagonism to the bacterium most associated with pneumonia - towards other bacteria it shows 'lesser antimicrobial activity'.

Pneumonia can be caused by a virus, a bacterium, a parasite or a fungus. In the case of a coronavirus infection, remember that the associated pneumonia is bacterial in nature, not viral. After the coronavirus has done its work, it is a bacterium that actually kills you. My guess is that it will usually be Streptococcus pneumoniae - the one that cannot stand up to natto.

There has been a lot of talk about probiotic bacteria in general not being able to get past the acid in your stomach - but what the scientists discovered was that five types of bacteria can and do survive past this point; five types of very ancient bacteria, that have been discovered alive in ice samples from millions of years ago. One of these five is natto.

If you still have any doubts about the power of natto, here is a passage from a scientific laboratory: 'B. subtilis has the ability to produce and secrete antibiotics. The genomic structure of this microorganism contains five signal peptidase genes that are important for the secretion of these antibiotics. B.subtilis has shown to be capable of secreting polymyxin, difficidin, subtilin, and mycobacillin.'

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This scientific study from 2015 shows that natto helps elderly people stay safe from respiratory infections. Quite a number of probiotics do the same. So if anybody had any doubts about whether natto really has been providing protection from coronavirus in the natto producing areas of Japan - as hinted at in the article in Japan Today - their doubts should now be dispelled.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669646/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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