Histamine in Provolone: Okay to Eat?

Last Updated on July 31, 2023 by Aaron

Provolone is a type of cheese that originates from Italy. It is usually made from cow’s milk and has a smooth, creamy texture and mild to sharp flavor, depending on how long it has been aged. Provolone cheese is often used in sandwiches, on pizzas, in pasta dishes, or simply enjoyed on its own.

Histamines are biogenic amines that your body produces when it’s experiencing an allergic reaction. They serve as part of the immune response, helping to increase blood flow to areas of the body where there might be an allergen. However, histamines can also cause common allergy symptoms like itching, sneezing, swelling, and rashes.

Histamine in Provolone – High?

Certain types of aged cheese, including provolone, can contain high levels of histamine. This is because the lactic bacteria used in the fermentation process that creates cheese can produce histamine as a byproduct (4).

The level of histamine in cheese can also increase as the cheese ages. Therefore, older, more mature cheeses, such as provolone piccante, may contain more histamine than younger, fresher dolce.

The actual histamine content in provolone can vary depending on factors like the specific bacteria used in its fermentation and how long it’s aged. For those sensitive to histamine, it might be advisable to limit the intake of aged cheeses or to look for cheeses known to have lower histamine content.

Histamine in food doesn’t usually cause problems for most people, but some individuals are more sensitive to dietary histamines than others. This condition is known as histamine intolerance, and it’s not the same as a true food allergy. The amount of histamine that causes a reaction is also different for each person and can be influenced by other factors, such as stress, medications, and the presence of other food triggers.

How Much Histamine in Provolone?

There are no specific guidelines regarding how much provolone or other high-histamine foods a person with histamine intolerance should eat. This is something that should be determined individually, usually through a process of trial and error.

Experts from several published papers (1) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (2) suggested less than 50 mg per meal of dietary histamine intake can be considered a safe level. However, it’s challenging to give a precise amount of provolone that would be safe to eat.

Notably, a study using fluorescent emission to detect histamine levels in cheeses (3) has reported having provolone contains up to 23.5 mg of histamine in 100 grams of cheese. The same study also pointed out the detectable upper limit of other popular cheeses like cheddar with 5.8 mg, gouda 2.4 mg, mozzarella 5 mg, and Swiss for 250 mg.

Thus, provolone contains a good amount of histamine, which could potentially trigger symptoms in individuals with histamine intolerance.

If you decide to try eating provolone, start with a small amount and pay close attention to any symptoms. If you don’t experience any adverse effects, you may be able to gradually increase your intake, always observing how your body responds.

It’s also important to note that histamine content can vary a lot between different batches of the same food, and cooking or storage methods can also affect histamine levels. This makes it hard to accurately estimate a person’s daily histamine intake.

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