What is an MAOI Diet?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 24 February 2020
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An MAOI diet is a diet designed to keep a person taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors from experiencing a negative interaction between the drug and food. The number and kinds of food that can cause negative reactions when taking this drug are quite broad, so it is important to pay attention to a doctor's instructions concerning diet when taking this drug. Unfortunately, many people on an MAOI diet are taking the drug for depression, which can lead people to ignore serious warnings due to lack of concern with personal welfare. An MAOI diet should be supervised if at all possible in order to prevent a person from causing his or her own death.

In general, an MAOI diet is explained in terms of avoidance. A person taking this drug must avoid certain foods or face a variety of consequences, which can be fatal. While the actual problem in the food is dietary amines, most patients receive explanations in terms of what familiar food items cannot be eaten.

Generally, aged cheese and sometimes processed cheese cannot be eaten on an MAOI diet. A number of different wines and beers are also considered unsafe, including non-alcoholic varieties. Several products with bacteria, such as brewer's yeast, yeast paste, and acidophilus, are also considered unsafe. Generally, breads made with baker's yeast are still considered safe.


Specific foods to avoid include fava beans, snow pea pods, and eggplant. Sauerkraut, cured meats, and meat products are also dangerous. Soy and tofu are typically not permitted either. Liver and caviar, either eaten alone or processed in foods, are both considered unacceptable meat items as well.

More generally, any food that is not ripe is not appropriate for an MAOI diet. Many people advise not only avoiding older fruits and vegetables, but leftovers as well. Some diets go as far as recommending dried fruits be left out entirely.

Failing to adhere to an MAOI diet can have severe consequences. While a person may die from eating an inappropriate food, many others merely get violently ill or feel pain. In any case, supervision may be necessary in order to keep a person on an MAOI diet safe. Even people who would otherwise be capable of sticking to a very important diet may be less able to do so if depressed. While failure to observe a diet may not be considered a suicide attempt, it can be evidence of a decreased ability to keep track of important information characteristic of depression.

Different sources give different recommendations for an MAOI diet. For example, some people claim that raspberries and chocolate are dangerous, while others find no problem with these foods. It is important to check with one's own doctor for maximum accuracy.


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