U.S. and European space research has yielded a test for biogenic amines that may help consumers avoid food-caused sudden headaches and worse.

The new technology to detect the naturally occurring food toxins was tested in a study published in Analytical Chemistry.

Biogenic amines -- such as tyramine, histamine, and phenylethylamine -- can cause nausea, headache and respiratory disorders. They are particularly dangerous for people with reduced monoamine oxidase, or MAO, activity or those taking MAO inhibitors -- an older class of antidepressant medications -- because the combination can cause dangerously high blood pressure.

"These toxins can be a serious health problem and are more common than people think," study leader Richard Mathies, a chemist with the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. "They are hidden in a wide variety of foods. Having a quick, convenient way to identify them will help consumers avoid them or at least limit their intake."

Mathies used portable microchip capillary electrophoresis to analyze a variety of wines, beer and sake and found it accurately measured the biogenic amines present in the beverages in less than 5 minutes. The highest levels of tyramine were found in red wine, and the highest levels of histidine were found in sake. The beer tested contained only small amounts of either.