Researchers observed that beef jerky and other processed meat were associated with maniac episodes, according to a study published on July 18, 2018.
This observation was made by analyzing over 1,000 people with and without psychiatric disorders. They found that nitrates, which are used for curing meats such as beef jerky, salami, hot dogs, and other processed meat snacks might lead to mania, which is an abnormal mood state. This mood state is mainly characterized by hyperactivity, euphoria and insomnia.
Researchers observed that people hospitalized for an episode of mania had over three times the odds of having ever eaten nitrate-cured meats when compared to people who does not have a history of serious psychiatric disorder. The experiments conducted on rats showed mania-like hyperactivity after just a few weeks on diets with added nitrates.
Researchers teamed up with a Baltimore-based beef jerky company and created nitrate-free dried beef. Then the experiments were repeated. The animals that ate the nitrate-free meat behaved similarly to a control group, while the animals that consumed the nitrates once again showed sleep disturbances and hyperactivity similar to that seen in patients with mania. The results were then replicated with a specially formulated rat chow that had either nitrate added directly to the chow, or no nitrate.
When gut bacteria of different groups of rats were analyzed, they found that animals with nitrate in their diet had different patterns of bacteria living in their intestines than the other rats. Moreover, the animals had differences in several molecular pathways in the brain that have been previously implicated in bipolar disorder.
Seva Khambadkone, M.D./Ph.D. student, said, “It’s clear that mania is a complex neuropsychiatric state, and that both genetic vulnerabilities and environmental factors are likely involved in the emergence and severity of bipolar disorder and associated manic episodes. Our results suggest that nitrated cured meat could be one environmental player in mediating mania.”