An analysis of more than 1,000 people with and without psychiatric disorders has shown that nitrates in cured meats such as beef jerky, meat sticks and other processed meat snacks, may contribute to mania.
Previous studies in rats have shown mania-like hyperactivity after just a few weeks on diets with added nitrates. This latest study from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that people hospitalised for an episode of mania were over three-times more likely to have ever eaten nitrate-cured meats than people without a history of a serious psychiatric disorder.
Cured meats were not associated with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder in people not hospitalised for mania. No other foods about which participants were queried had a significant association with any of the disorders or with mania.
“There’s growing evidence that germs in the intestines can influence the brain,” said lead author Robert Yolken. “This work on nitrates opens the door for future studies on how that may be happening.”
“Future work on this association could lead to dietary interventions to help reduce the risk of manic episodes in those who have bipolar disorder or who are otherwise vulnerable to mania,” he said.