Bad news, bacon fans: Some disturbing news this morning from a study at Johns Hopkins regarding a tie between people who experience manic episodes and the consumption of processed meat products—such as lunchmeat, bacon, and jerky. The study states: “An analysis of more than 1,000 people with and without psychiatric disorders has shown that nitrates—chemicals used to cure meats such as beef jerky, salami, hot dogs and other processed meat snacks—may contribute to mania, an abnormal mood state. Mania is characterized by hyperactivity, euphoria and insomnia.” The study took place between 2007 and 2017, with 1,101 participants aged 18 through 65, with and without psychiatric disorders.
The study states that people hospitalized for mania have three times the odds of having eaten processed meat. Specifically, meat processed with nitrates to preserve it, which appears to be the culprit. The researchers then underwent a control experiment with rats, noting that rats started exhibiting mania-like symptoms after just a few weeks on a diet with added nitrates. And not even that much added nitrates: “The amount of nitrate being consumed on a daily basis by the rats—when scaled up to the size of a human—was equivalent to the amount a person might eat for a daily snack, such as one beef jerky stick or hot dog.” Still, the rats started showing signs of hyperactivity and irregular sleeping patterns.
Dr. Robert Yoken, lead author of the study, stated, “We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out. It wasn’t just that people with mania have an abnormal diet.” Co-author Seva Khambadkone added, “Nitrated cured meat could be one environmental player in mediating mania.” While we’re glad that this study can definitely be a help to people with manic symptoms, we’re still sad that now we’re looking at our bacon diet with a bit more suspicion.