A recent study on beef jerky and bipolar mania is closer than ever in taking the link a step further & establishing actual CAUSATION - as in whether cured meat can actually CAUSE a manic episode.
According to The Atlantic, many studies have been done on the link between beef jerky consumption and manic episodes - but they don’t necessarily indicate “causation,” just “correlation.” That’s what makes this study slightly different.
First, let me give a quick rundown on what we know about the link between cured meat and bipolar disorder… which is, that we know there’s a link. Most recently, researchers studied psychiatric patients at a hospital in Baltimore suffering from a range of disorders. Those who had eaten cured meats—which include jerky and meat sticks—were three and a half times more likely to be in the group that was hospitalized for mania compared with the control group.
What’s more, beef jerky was not significantly correlated with ANY other mental health disorder aside from bipolar mania. So this is where the researchers took it a step further. Because, as The Atlantic puts it, “After all, it could just be that people who were already about to go manic were staying up late, ambling down to 7-Eleven, and stocking up on Slim Jims.”
So, the scientists turned to rats. They fed one group of rats normal food, and one group of rats, you guessed it, beef jerky. After about 2 weeks, the rats who consumed snack-sized amounts of beef jerky began sleeping irregularly and behaving more excitedly. In other words, they seemed manic.
The researchers then looked at the brain and the guts of the rats. The Atlantic notes that “Their brains exhibited gene and molecular-pathway changes that are similar to the kind seen in people with bipolar disorder. What’s more, the manic rats, the ones with nitrate in their diet, had different kinds of bacteria living in their guts than the control rats did.”
Now, based on this study alone, it’s too early to say that people with bipolar disorder should avoid nitrates, but this study is still pretty groundbreaking and is paving the way for a better understanding of bipolar disorder, and how what we eat affects how we feel.
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