Medications That Could Have Negative Interactions With Aged Cheeses

Many things in life get better with age, and that includes cheese. According to Wisconsin Cheese, aged cheeses are those that have been left to ripen for several weeks or even years. These riped cheeses have a firmer, more crystalline texture. They also have more flavor.

Aged cheese is different because it goes through several chemical and biological reactions as it ripens. Lactose, which is a sugar in the cheese, breaks down into lactic acid, giving the cheese a more sour taste. In addition, proteins in the cheese are broken down into smaller pieces, imparting a more nutty, smoky, or fruity flavor. Some aged cheeses contain bacteria and mold cultures, which give distinctive flavors to the cheese.

Along with the bacteria and mold, aged cheeses include an amino acid called tyramine (via Mayo Clinic). Tyramine is naturally present in foods that contain protein but the amount increases as foods like cheese age.

Tyramine can be a problem for people using MAOIs

Cheeses such as cheddar, blue, swiss, parmesan, feta, and Camembert contain high amounts of tyramine, as per WebMD. In fact, the high levels of tyramine don't stop there. It's also embedded in meats that have been cured or processed, pickled or fermented vegetables, tropical fruits, and some liquor such as beer, red wine, vermouth, and sherry.

While tyramine can make foods taste better, it can also be a problem for people who take a type of antidepressant called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These medications include drugs like Nardil (phenelzine), Emsam (selegiline), Marplan (isocarboxazid), and Parnate (tranylcypromine), according to

The reason comes down to the fact that tyramine is naturally present in the human body, where it is involved in regulating blood pressure, says the Mayo Clinic. MAOIs block monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that helps break down tyramine. When monoamine oxidase can't break down tyramine, it can build up to dangerous levels, causing a life-threatening increase in blood pressure (hypertensive crisis).

A hypertensive crisis occurs when blood pressure skyrockets to readings of 180/120 or more (via American Heart Association). It can have serious consequences, such as stroke, heart attack, and organ damage. They note that the presence of chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness or weakness, changes in vision, or problems speaking are all signs that you need immediate medical attention.