Nitrates in meat may be tied to mania, study says

22 July, 2018, 03:42 | Author: Denise Dawson
  • Hot dogs and other cured meats may cause mania, new study finds

The study showed that chemicals used for processing of meat products can affect the mental state of the person. It's not entirely clear why, but more and more research is showing that the bacteria that live in and on our bodies affect health in profound ways.

Kellie Tamashiro, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and M.D./Ph.D. student Seva Khambadkone, both of Johns Hopkins, and others divided a group of otherwise healthy rats into two groups: one received normal rat chow, and the other received both normal chow and a piece of store-bought, nitrate-prepared beef jerky every other day.

Although genetic and other risk factors have been associated with manic episodes that characterise bipolar disorder, they were not able to explain the cause behind the mental illness.

Lead author Robert Yolken, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said: "We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out".

Meat sticks and jerky are popular snacks in the U.S., and less so in the United Kingdom, however nitrates are used here as preservatives for a minority of sausages and may also be in bacon and burgers. 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.

The study does not prove nitrates cause mania, but that there is an association between consuming nitrates and mania when it does exist.

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To investigate the potential link between environmental exposures and psychiatric conditions, Dr. Yolken's team undertook a study through which they collected demographic, health, and dietary data for 1,101 individuals with and without psychiatric disorders.

The scientists said people hospitalized for mania had about three times the odds of having eaten nitrate-cured meats than others, and rats fed a diet with added nitrates showed symptoms of mania within a few weeks, according to the study. "It wasn't just that people with mania have an abnormal diet", he said.

Mania is characterised by hyperactivity, euphoria and insomnia. These animals also demonstrated changes to hippocampal pathways in the brain that have been implicated in human bipolar disorder, as well as alterations to their intestinal microbiota.

"We believe there may be an interactive effect between nitrates and some other component in meat", the researchers said.

Chemicals used to cure meats like salami and hot dogs may be linked to a mood disorder called mania, researchers report.

"In individuals at low risk for these disorders due to their genetic backgrounds, medical histories and socioeconomical risk loads, it is conceivable that consumption of nitrate-prepared processed meat may result in physiological changes, but that these changes may not be severe enough to result in measurable functional consequences", they concluded.

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