Natto Query Letter

Sonya Chung
495 Paul Hardin Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
February 7, 2016

Dear Ms. Sarah Boyd,

I am currently a student, very interested in food and nutrition, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Recently, I have been writing an article about a relatively unknown yet very nutritious food, natto, and would love for my article to be a part of your distinguished journal.

Two East-Asian countries, Korea and Japan, have entered an aging era, and the number of seniors (aged above 65 years) has been rising dramatically. According to the UN, it only took Japan 24 years and will only take Korea 18 years for their senior populations to double, while it took France 115 years and America 71 years. As Korea and Japan are rapidly becoming “super-aged” societies, researchers have been investigating the people’s diet and found that various forms of fermented soybeans are often consumed with rice. “Sticky, Stinky Natto Stretches Lifespan” will delve into natto’s biological and nutritional benefits that may potentially lead to longevity.

Natto, covered in white mucous sap, is a Japanese traditional fermented soybean product that has a soft texture and an unpleasant wet-sock-like smell (to be extreme); Korea’s cheong-gook-jang is basically the same product with different names. But because more information is available with the name “natto”, the article will be referring to natto more than cheonggookjang. Natto contains high contents of fiber, various vitamins, minerals, and isoflavone, which is to be discussed later in the article more thoroughly.

Once soybeans are soaked in water, boiled, and fermented, sensory characteristics of natto are improved, undesirable contents are eliminated, and some nutritional properties are enhanced. Natto is very unusual in that, just as the sensory properties change, soy proteins, biological inhibitors, and bacterial enzymes break into easily digestible compounds when fermented. This decomposition allows more nutrients to be absorbed by the body, whereas unfermented soybeans do not grant as much absorption. Moreover, the fermenting process actually increases the total amount of protein, and findings say that this phenomenon is due to the increase of microorganisms, the synthesis of enzymes, and the rearrangements of pre-existing compositions.

The high levels of vitamin K and isoflavone, specifically, account for natto’s standing as a functional food and dietary supplement. Natto contains hundreds times as much vitamin K, a producer of protein and bones, than other foods. Ikeda’s report (2006) on the association of eating natto and bone mineral density (BMD) on 944 healthy Japanese women will be cited in the article; this research depicts the positive relationship between daily natto intake and BMD. Isoflavone, on the other hand, acts as a blood clot preventer, a blood clot dissolver, and a substitute for female hormone; isoflavone, in addition to reducing DNA damage, further prevents the activities of low-density lipoprotein (also known as the “bad” cholesterol) and free radicals (molecules responsible for aging and cell damage). Furthermore, following a concise explanation of what oxidation is will be the discussion of the antioxidative activities of natto and their effects on health.

Since food of such high-nutrition only has a very short shelf-life due to the secretion of ammonia, a hazardous compound, after time, food companies have been continuously attempting to change the form of natto into dry powder; this way, natto will sell as more acceptable and accessible, especially as the unpleasant odor is reduced when dried. Even though the direct impact of natto on lengthening one’s lifespan may not be crystal-clear, the overall nutritional content may lead to a healthier diet and body over time.

I hope this gives you a taste of what my article will be like. It would be a great honor to share this article with the million readers of your journal.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Sonya Chung

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