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Refining the MAOI Diet: Tyramine Content of Pizzas and Soy Products

J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(3):191-193
10.4088/JCP.v60n0308

Background: Continuous refinement of the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) diet has resulted in much reduced and simplified recommendations that attempt to balance safety and practicality. In the spirit of evidence-based practice, dietary restrictions should be based on carefully documented case reports and valid tyramine analyses. Residual concerns have focused on combination foods such as pizza and a variety of soy products. We determined the tyramine content of pizzas and a variety of soy products in order to refine dietary recommendations for use with MAOIs.

Method: High-pressure liquid chromatography analysis of tyramine content was performed on a variety of pizzas, soy sauces, and other soybean products. A tyramine level of 6 mg or less was considered safe.

Results: No significant tyramine levels were found in any of the pizzas, including those with double pepperoni and double cheese. Marked variability was found in soy products, including clinically significant tyramine levels in tofu when stored for a week and high tyramine content in one of the soy sauces.

Conclusion: Pizzas from large chain commercial outlets are safe for consumption with MAOIs. However, caution must be exercised if ordering pizzas from smaller outlets or gourmet pizzas known to contain aged cheeses. All soybean products should be avoided, especially soy sauce and tofu. Individualized counseling and continuous surveillance of compliance are still essential.