Hot dogs, bacon and processed meat may cause ‘manic episodes’

Hot dogs, bacon and processed meat may cause ‘manic episodes’

Hot dogs, salami and other cured meats may lead to manic episodes, according to a new study.

Scientists found that patients hospitalise for mania were more than three times as likely to have eaten meats such as ham, salami or beef jerky than people without a history of a serious psychiatric disorder.

Yolken, trained as an infectious disease expert, was originally interested in whether exposure to infections such as viruses transmitted through food might be linked to psychiatric conditions.

The study, which was carried out by John Hopksins Medicine, says that nitrate may contribute to mania, an abnormal mood state.

Manic episodes, where people become hyperactive, euphoric and can not sleep, affect one to two in 100 people, including presenter Stephen Fry and Hollywood actress Carrie Fisher.

"We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out", said Dr. Robert Yolken, the study's lead author.

Professor Yolken added: "There's growing evidence that germs in the intestines can influence the brain".

Yolken was originally interested in studying the effect foods may have on mental illness, and conducted a demographic study of 1,101 people both with and without mental disorders.

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For the first study, the researchers didn't even intend to look at cured meats, said study co-author Faith Dickerson, director of the Stanley Research Program at Sheppard Pratt Health System.

"I think that for people with mania, and perhaps other disorders as well, there might be environmental triggers that you can control", he said.

The study, which appears in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, while not created to determine cause-and-effect, did find that people hospitalized for an episode of mania were three times more likely ever to have eaten nitrate-cured meats than were people without a history of a serious psychiatric disorder.

"We found that a history of eating nitrated dry cured meat but not other meat or fish products was strongly and independently associated with current mania", Yolken and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Finally, in a third study, the researchers set out to see which ingredients in cured meats might cause mania. No other foods had a significant association with any of the disorders. To do so, they fed cured meats to rats and observed which ingredients led to hyperactivity.

Rats fed a diet with added nitrates showed mania like hyperactivity after just a few weeks in separate tests. Importantly, the amount of nitrate being consumed by the rats was equivalent to the amount a human might ingest in a daily snack, such as a hotdog or beef jerky stick. 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. And Yolken said other studies have shown that people who have manic episodes show signs of inflammation in their bodies.

Cured meats are high in nitrates and have been linked to neurodegenerative disease, as well as multiple cancers.

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