Meats that are processed with nitrates significantly increased the risk of manic episodes, but not of depression or other mental health problems, in a new study.
Beef jerky, turkey jerky, and meat sticks like Slim Jim’s showed strong associations. The researchers did not look specifically at hot dogs and bacon, but based on how they are processed they are likely to increase the risk as well.
What’s a person with bipolar to do? This is just one study, but it’s best to avoid nitrated meats for now if you have a risk of mania. Prosciutto is safe, but be careful about meats that are advertised as “uncured” or “nitrate free.” Look for signs of vegetable curing on the ingredient list, like celery or beet powder. Those powders allow manufacturers to say that they didn’t use pure nitrates, but these vegetable sources add just as much – and often more – nitrates to the mix so don’t decrease the risk.
Nitrated meats carry other health risks: cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
There’s good news in the food-brain link as well. Taking a probiotic lowers the risk of mania, and a Mediterranean style diet improves brain health and treats depression.