The amines are substances derived from the ammonia a gas which consists of three hydrogen atoms and one nitrogen atom. When at least one of the hydrogen atoms in ammonia is replaced by aromatic or aliphatic radicals, an amine is obtained.
If a hydrogen atom is replaced, it is called a primary amine. In cases where two hydrogen atoms are replaced, the result is a secondary amine. The tertiary amines, moreover, are generated from the replacement of three hydrogen atoms.
Another classification of amines depends on the alkyl groups, which give rise to two possibilities: when they are identical, then the amines are simple; on the other hand, if they have different characteristics, the amines are mixed.
The aniline is a primary amine. This organic compound is used in the preparation of pesticides, explosives, paints and varnishes, among other products. It should be noted that aniline is toxic since it generates damage to hemoglobin.
Among the secondary amines, there may be mentioned diethylamine, a substance used to produce colorants, resins and other articles. If diethylamine falls on the skin, it causes a burn.
As for tertiary amines, one of the most common is trimethylamine, which is used in dyes and resins. The decomposition of plants and animals releases trimethylamine: the unpleasant smell of the process is due to the presence of this amine.
Different classes of amines have different characteristics. In amines of such a molecular weight, primaries and secondaries have higher boiling points than tertiary amines, to cite one example.
In a large number of drinks and foods, we can find nitrogenous compounds known as biogenic amines, which are fermented by lactic acid bacteria. Some of the most common examples are beer, wine, cold cuts and cheese, just four of the most consumed products in many parts of the world.
It is important to note that if the biogenic amines in a food item are present in high concentrations, this can have negative consequences for the health of consumers. As a result of this risk, scientists constantly work to ensure that they do not grow, and to do so they use processes such as freezing and refrigeration.
Despite efforts to limit the development of biogenic amines in food, refrigerating and freezing them is not always sufficient, and therefore it is necessary to know how these compounds are formed, how they act and which are the most common, so that it is more possible to reduce their consumption and keep them under control.
In foodstuffs, the most common biogenic amines are tyramine, histamine, sperm, putrescine, tryptamine, sperdimine, and cadaverine. From this list we must highlight tyramine and histamine, the most abundant in cheese, since they are the cause of the greatest number of food poisonings.
Since they can cause the formation of potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines from reaction with nitrites, they have been considered risky substances. With regard to the toxic capacity of biogenic amines, it is necessary to point out that it depends on certain factors unrelated to them, such as the combination of their consumption with some medications, or even the sensitivity of the person; This makes the task of defining toxicity levels in each food very complex.
The term biogenic in the name of these substances refers to the fact that they arise from the activity of certain living organisms. In processes such as food fermentation, whether spontaneous or controlled, these amines proliferate.