Science Questions

Why does cheese make you sweat?

Sun, 25th Feb 2007

Part of the show Parasites and Clean Water


Stuart via email asked:

Why does cheese make you sweat? Sometimes if I have too much cheddar, I start feeling sweat creep across my brow. Is this just me?


The reason I believe that this isn't just you is that there's something that's been known about by pharmacologists for a long time called the cheese reaction. This was first noticed when scientists invented a type of anti-depressant called monoamineoxidase inhibitors, which block up this enzyme monoamineoxidase. This enzyme usually breaks down things that contain amines or nitrogen-containing groups in them. The cheese reaction that people experienced when they ate cheese while on these drugs was that they had very high blood pressure, their heart went very fast and those are all actions of adrenaline. This is because cheese has something in it that acts a bit like adrenaline, and the key one is called tyromine. I wonder whether when you eat a bit of cheese, it stimulates the part of the nervous system that adrenaline would usually stimulate, and thus causes sweating.


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