Sales Of Fermented Soybeans Soar In Japan Due To Claims That It Fights Coronavirus

The soybean dish known as natto has an ammonia-like smell and stringy consistency?and it’s selling unexpectedly well right now.

In 1995, researchers at the National Cancer Center Japan (NCCJ) in Tokyo started an ambitious long-term study that involved tracking the health and dietary choices of more than 92,000 adults to determine whether there was a correlation between eating soy products and certain causes of death. The participants were quizzed about their consumption of 138 different foods and beverages at the beginning of the study, and at the five- and 10-year marks after that, but the researchers were most interested in how much natto, tofu, miso, and soy milk everyone was downing on the reg.

The results of the study were published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal, and although the authors urged caution when interpreting their data, it did seem to illustrate that a higher intake of fermented soy, like natto and miso, correlated to a lower risk of death by stroke or heart attack. Both men and women who downed 50 grams of fermented soy every day lowered their risk of those particular causes of death by 10 percent, when compared to the study participants who reported the lowest amount of natto and miso consumption.

But natto sales have gotten another recent boost, because some people seem to believe that it can prevent coronavirus. The idea that natto is some kind of powerfully scented panacea isn’t a new one: Japan Today reported that in 1992, one physician said that eating natto “can’t hurt” when it came to protecting oneself from AIDS.

Natto is undoubtedly one of the world’s most divisive foods. It is one of the 80 items on display at the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmö, Sweden (which is temporarily closed due to coronavirus) and it has been described by Japanese news outlet SoraNews24 as “notoriously challenging” to eat.

But it’s ammonia-like smell and stringy consistency are more readily overlooked during a global pandemic, especially when panicked shoppers convince themselves that fermented soybeans are the immunity booster they’ve been looking for.