Biogenic mono-, di- and poly-amines are widely distributed among living organisms. The amines fulfil many important functions in the human body both in the periphery and brain. Some authors suggest that foods rich in biogenic amines, especially histamine, present high health hazards for consumers. However, this is conditional on a range of other factors. The alimentary tract is well equipped with enzymes that inactivate amines and the blood–brain barrier prevents them entering the brain from the circulation. Oxidative deamination, methylation, acetylation and transglutamylation are the degradation pathways which operate efficiently in the stomach, intestines and liver. Particularly important is oxidative deamination. Food histamine poisoning or cheese reaction, manifested itself in patients treated with drugs that inhibit amine oxidases or in patients showing an enterocytic diamine oxidase deficit. It is rather food allergy, which should worry us more, as endogenous histamine release from mast cells is more dangerous. Preventive measures should be undertaken against increases in food allergies.

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