Beef jerky, processed meats linked to maniac episodes says new study

Leslie Hanson
July 19, 2018

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, US, cautioned that occasional cured meat consumption is unlikely to cause a manic episode in most people.

A study of more than 1,000 people, including those with psychiatric disorders, found people who had consumed processed meat were three and a half times more likely to have been hospitalised for mania.

Scientists are of the opinion that this could be due to the presence of chemical nitrate present in the foods to preserve them.

Gorging on bacon, hot dogs and other processed meat could leave you unable to sleep.

Researchers caution that the study was not created to show a cause-and-effect relationship, only a correlation between the two behaviours.

They are found also naturally in other foods and in the environment, and there is limited evidence that overexposure to the chemicals can cause cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

"We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out", said Dr. Robert Yolken, the study's lead author. In contrast, a diet high in meats prepared without nitrates didn't induce behavior changes or hyperactivity.

The study was published July 18 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Hot dogs and other cured meats may cause mania, new study finds
Bacon, ham and hot dogs ‘linked to manic episodes’

Mania is an abnormal mental state marked by feelings of hyperactivity, excitability, irritability, racing thoughts, risk-taking and insomnia, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The same researchers conducted an experiment on rats where they were fed on diets with added nitrates.

"Both genetic vulnerabilities and environmental factors are likely involved in the emergency and severity of bipolar disorder and associated manic episodes", said Seva Khambadkone, who worked on the study.

To get at the roots of the association, Yolken collaborated with researchers studying the impact of nitrates on rats.

"There's growing evidence that germs in the intestines can influence the brain", Yolken said.

Also looking at possible connections between gut bacteria and mental health issues is Dr. Valerie Taylor of the Women's College Hospital in Toronto. Cured meats were not associated with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder in people not hospitalized for mania, or in major depressive disorder.

Taylor is now running a study which involves flushing out the gut bacteria of people with bipolar disorder and giving them fecal transplants from people known to be in good mental health, to see if it can lead to lesser symptoms and improved conditions. The dietary survey did not ask about frequency or time frame of cured meat consumption, so the researchers couldn't draw conclusions about how much cured meat may boost one's risk of mania, but Yolken hopes future studies will address this.

'Our results suggest that nitrated cured meat could be one environmental player in mediating mania'.

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