Sit down and be prepared for the worst news you’re going to hear all day long, guys. According to a new study, researchers are linking beef jerky to becoming bipolar and, damn it, all of a sudden nothing seems fair in the world anymore.
The (devastating) information comes from a survey of Baltimore psychiatric patients about their diets, with Johns Hopkins researchers finding that those who reported eating cured meats, like beef jerky, were more than three times more likely to be treated for being bipolar over other patients. While the initial testing came on rats, per The Atlantic, with the rodents showing an increase of excitement, followed by irregular sleep — in other words, a manic episode.
So, what caused such a reaction? According to neurovirology professor Robert Yolken, who was part of the research team, it was because of nitrates, a common preservative used in beef jerky and other cured meats.
Nitrates have antibacterial properties, and Yolken thinks the preservative might have been altering the microbiomes of the rats and the humans. In past research, he and his colleagues found that when people who were hospitalized for a manic episode were given probiotics, they were less likely to be rehospitalized in the next six months.
It’s not totally clear how these microbiome changes affect the brain. According to the researchers, the bacteria might be sending signals through the vagus nerve, which connects the gut and brain. Or they could be releasing chemicals called butyrates that travel through the circulatory system to the brain, where they influence the production of mood-setting hormones called neurotransmitters.
Although the study is far from a sure thing, with researchers saying that it’s still too early to be overly concerned, given the small amount of data, cured meats like beef jerky have also been linked to cancer before, too. So, even if you don’t become bipolar, if modern medicine is accurate, eating jerky and other cured meats will contribute to your death in some way. Bummer.