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Investigate the impact of amines in food.

It's well known that certain components of some foods--amines--possess biological activity. Amines are formed during normal metabolic processes in living organisms and are present in everyday food products. The characteristics and biological functions of amines are very diverse. They may have beneficial or harmful effects.

In general, amines are biogenic amines, such as serotonin, cadaverine and histamine. They also are natural polyamines, such as spermidine and spermine. Both polyamines and biogenic amines are present in food. While polyamines appear to be essential through their involvement in growth and cell proliferation, biogenic amines mostly have a detrimental impact. They have the potential to lead to nausea, hot flushes, sweating, headaches, and hyper- or hypotension. The biogenic amine content of food products should be kept at a very low level.

A European effort has attempted to clarify the physiological functions of biogenically active amines. The research also included an investigation into medical foods applications, such as the formation of a low-polyamine, anticancer diet to provide a better quality of life for patients with cancer. Scientists also tried to develop nutritional advice for people who are taking certain types of monoamine oxidase inhibitors that are used in some depressive illnesses. These make patients sensitive to biogenic amines in foods, such as some mature cheeses; fermented foods, e.g., sauerkraut and fermented soya products; yeast extracts; pickled fish; and red wine.

Researchers investigated the physiology and metabolism of biologically active amines, issues surrounding polyamines and tumor growth, transgenic plants with modified amine content, biologically active amines in food processing and the production of biologically active amines by bacteria. The results of their work are online at: page?_pageid=74&_dad=catdiff&_schema=PORTAL30&_mode=3.

Further information. John Williams, European Commission, COST Scientific Officer SDME 9/75, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium; phone: +32 (0)2 299 1599; fax: +32 (0)2 296 4289; email:
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Publication:Microbial Update International
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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