A recent study has suggested that consumption of processed meats like bacon and hot dogs can be linked to mental breakdowns. A Johns Hopkins Medicine study has revealed that those who were hospitalised for mania were more than three times more likely to have had eaten beef jerky, ham or salami in the recent past and scientists are of the opinion that this could be due to the presence of nitrates that chemicals used to process and cure meats.
The same researchers conducted an experiment on rats where they were fed on diets with added nitrates. The rats showed mania-like hyperactivity just after a few weeks.
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. Researchers, hence, are looking at diet as a plausible causative factor among other things. Robert Yolken, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said, “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.”
For the study, dietary data of 1,101 people aged 18 to 65 between 2007 and 2017 were collected and analysed and consumption of cured meat was identified as an important contributing factor. “We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out,” Yolken said.
The survey did not take into account the time frame of cured meat consumption hence the researchers could not infer exactly how much cured meat triggers an individual’s risk of mania.