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

Hot dogs and other cured meats may cause mania, new study finds

Cured meats such as salami or jerky may worsen the symptoms of some people with mental illness, researchers reported Wednesday.

To test the effects of nitrates, the USA researchers added them to the diet of rats, which showed signs of mania after just a few weeks.

Although these results showed that there was a possible association between cured meat with nitrates and manic episodes, they do not suggest that eating these meats from time-to-time in the general population will cause a manic episode, as more research must be done. "We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out", Yolken said.

The researchers then conducted a series of experiments on rats to better explain the association between nitrates and mania. In addition, he worked with a jerky manufacturer to develop a nitrate-free jerky, and when he fed animals this jerky, they did not develop hyperactivity or sleep disturbances - although the rats fed commercial jerky with nitrates (in the amount that would be found in a beef jerky stick or hot dog), did.

Mania, a state of elevated mood, arousal and energy that lasts weeks to months, is generally seen in people with bipolar disorder, but can also occur in those with schizoaffective disorder.

Processed meats may lead to higher risk of mania, a mood disorder, according to new research by Johns Hopkins University.

The results showed a similar affect: the rats that ate the nitrate-prepared jerky had irregular sleeping patterns and hyperactivity, and those that consumed nitrate-free dried beef had no symptoms. Cured meats were not associated with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder in people not hospitalized for mania or in major depressive disorder. Among that long list of questions - in what Dickerson told was not meant to be a core element of the study but rather filler to "round out" the questionnaire - was whether the patients had ever eaten cured meats.

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They are part of bipolar disorder, which used to be called 'manic depression'.

Indeed, Kellie Tamashiro, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine who worked on the rat study, noted that rats are far from ideal analogues to human beings.

When the group analyzed the gut bacteria of the rats, they found that animals with nitrate in their diet had different bacteria in their intestines than the others. "Our results suggest that nitrated cured meat could be one environmental player in mediating mania".

"We'd need much more evidence of a link before making any recommendations to patients or the public in relation to the risk of eating cured meat and developing mania", said Dr. Anthony Cleare, a psychiatry professor at King's College London who was not involved in the study.

Nitrates are chemicals that are sometimes added to processed and cured meats as preservatives.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found nitrates changed the gut bacteria of rats, which may be linked to mental health problems.

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