Spermidine, spermine, putrescine, cadaverine, agmatine and histamine are natural chemicals found in food. They are known as polyamines*, which are essential to normal cell processes. Polyamines are believed to be made of amino acids and are increased by fermentation. Putrescine can be produced from the amino acid ornithine. Polyamines are made by cells and they are consumed in our diets. Too high a concentration of polyamines may be harmful to cells. The present study was done to determine the amounts of various polyamines eaten in common foods and to evaluate the effects of consumed polyamines on health.
Soybeans and green tea contain the largest amounts of polyamines. Soybeans, tea leaves and mushrooms are high in content of spermidine. Tofu, a product made of soybeans contains very small amounts of polyamines. Brewed Oolong tea and black tea (teas fermented by natural enzymes instead of microorganisms) contain only small amounts of polyamines. Japanese powdered green tea** is consumed as a suspension of the powder and contains large amounts of polyamines which are released from the powdered leaves by the acidity of the stomach.
Oranges without peel are high in putrescine, while spinach is high in histamine. Dry shiitake mushrooms contain spermidine, but it is not released in a water extract. Animal origin foods, such as eggs and milk products, lack polyamines (except for blue cheese and cheddar cheese).
Fermented foods are high in polyamines. Soy sauce and miso are high in putrescine and spermidine. Large amounts of histamine are found in soy sauce, but not in miso (from rice, barley and soybean). Natto and tempe are soy product which contain small amounts of polyamines. Sake is high in agmatine (probably from the fermentation of arginine). Beer and red wine contain putresine. Vinegar and alcoholic drinks contain low levels of polyamines.
CONCLUSION: This study reports on the amounts of polyamines in various foods, fermented and unfermented. Further studies are needed to learn more about the health results of consuming polyamines.
NOTE: *Polyamines are organic compounds which contain two or more amino chemical groups (-NH2). Their exact function is unclear.
**Japanese green tea powder is often referred to as Matcha.
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