Effects of dietary amines on the gut and its vasculature

Br J Nutr. 2009 Jun;101(11):1645-52. doi: 10.1017/S0007114508123431. Epub 2008 Nov 19.


Trace amines, including tyramine and beta-phenylethylamine (beta-PEA), are constituents of many foods including chocolate, cheeses and wines and are generated by so-called 'friendly' bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Lactococcus and Enterococcus species, which are found in probiotics. We therefore examined whether these dietary amines could exert pharmacological effects on the gut and its vasculature. In the present study we examined the effects of tyramine and beta-PEA on the contractile activity of guinea-pig and rat ileum and upon the isolated mesenteric vasculature and other blood vessels. Traditionally, these amines are regarded as sympathomimetic amines, exerting effects through the release of noradrenaline from sympathetic nerve endings, which should relax the gut. A secondary aim was therefore to confirm this mechanism of action. However, contractile effects were observed in the gut and these were independent of noradrenaline, acetylcholine, histamine and serotonin receptors. They were therefore probably due to the recently described trace amine-associated receptors. These amines relaxed the mesenteric vasculature. In contrast, the aorta and coronary arteries were constricted, a response that was also independent of a sympathomimetic action. From these results, we propose that after ingestion, trace amines could stimulate the gut and improve intestinal blood flow. Restriction of blood flow elsewhere diverts blood to the gut to aid digestion. Thus, trace amines in the diet may promote the digestive process through stimulation of the gut and improved gastrointestinal circulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amines / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Aorta / drug effects
  • Aorta / physiology
  • Coronary Vessels / drug effects
  • Coronary Vessels / physiology
  • Diet*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Ileum / blood supply
  • Ileum / drug effects*
  • Ileum / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Phenethylamines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Splanchnic Circulation / drug effects
  • Swine
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • Tyramine / pharmacology
  • Vasoconstriction / drug effects


  • Amines
  • Phenethylamines
  • phenethylamine
  • Tyramine