The psychological disorder known as “mania” is defined as an abnormally heightened mood that can lead to periods of elation as well as irritability and other symptoms such as insomnia, delusions of grandeur, compulsive sexual urges, and similar forms of inappropriate and risky behavior according to MedicineNet. The condition is often associated with bipolar disorder and can cause episodes that last hours or even days. But the biological causes of mania are still in doubt.
A new study by researchers associated with Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, published this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, may have found a new suspect — lunch meats. Specifically, the scientists who studied about 1,100 people — including those with psychological disorders and others without diagnosed abnormalities — found that nitrates, a common additive in many cured and processed meats, appear to be connected to an increased risk of manic disorders.
In fact, people hospitalized due to a severe manic episode were three times more likely to have eaten meats treated with nitrate additives than people without any history of significant psychiatric problems, according to a summary of the study published by Science Daily.
“We are not trying to scare people,” the study’s lead author, Johns Hopkins neurovirologist Robert Yolken, told NBC News. “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.”
The scientists were then able to confirm their observations in experiments conducted on lab rats, finding that within three weeks offing placed on a diet featuring meat with added nitrates, the rats began to display symptoms of mani-like hyperactivity. Rats who ate meats without the nitrate additives displayed much lower tendency to manic behavior, according to a Mental Floss summary of the study.
There is increasing evidence that the biological makeup of the digestive tract can directly affect the condition of the brain, even making disorders such as autism more likely if a gut disorder is also present, as Inquisitr recently reported.
“There’s growing evidence that germs in the intestines can influence the brain,” Yolken told United Press International. “This work on nitrates opens the door for future studies on how that may be happening.”
Yolken noted that the most common way that the study’s subjects consumed nitrate-laden mean was in the form of dried snack meats, such as “meat sticks, beef jerky and turkey jerky.”
Many brands of non-organic hot dogs and sausages also contain added nitrates, according to the health site Fooducate.