If you ask me, we don’t need a reason to avoid eating beef jerky, but given that the stuff still runs out of gas stations like hotcakes, clearly I’m in the minority.
Maybe I won’t be, though, after you read this article. Or at least, maybe I shouldn’t be.
NBC News has reported that processed meats that contain nitrates (like jerky, cold cuts, hot dogs, etc.) may provoke symptoms of mental illness – specifically, mania.
The claim comes after a study published in Molecular Psychiatry found that a significant number of participants began exhibiting symptoms of mania – like racing thoughts, intense euphoria, and irritability – shortly after eating some type of cured meat.
In fact, patients who had recently consumed products like salami, jerky, and dried meat sticks were more likely to have been or be hospitalized for mania than subjects in the control group.
Scientists narrowed the link down to the nitrates, which are preservatives added to many cured meats. People who were fed nitrate-free jerky acted less hyperactive than those who were given the nitrate-rich sticks.
That nitrates may not be exactly harmless to humans isn’t news – you can find numerous studies that contain warnings and show multiple risks associated with consuming them regularly. They don’t just make you hyper, either. They can lead to the formation of cancers and promote inflammation in the gut, though most scientists will admit that more research needs to be done in order to pin down exactly how and why consuming them has such negative outcomes for many people.
In the meantime, if you have a history of cancer in your family, a history of poor mental health, or have existing psychiatric or gut disorders, you might do well to avoid nitrates – and all process meats containing them – until the research is in.
I can tell you I plan to (continue) doing so, though saying no to hotdogs at the ballgame is gonna be tough.