Are Hot Dogs Making People Crazy?
Node Smith, ND
An interesting study has recently associated hot dogs and other processed meats with the development of mania, a psychological state marked by hyperactivity, euphoria and insomnia. An analysis of over a thousand individuals with and without psychiatric conditions has suggested that nitrates – compounds used in processed meats such as hot dogs, jerky, deli slices, and other snack meats – may be a factor in the development of mania.1
The study was conducted by John Hopkins School of Medicine, and was not intended to establish a cause and effect relationship. It did, however, find that individuals who had been hospitalized for manic episodes had a more than 3 times the odds of having eaten nitrate-rich foods than individuals without a history of a psychiatric disorder.
These findings have been supported by similar findings in rats, who show mania-like symptoms after only a few weeks on diets that include nitrates.
Though other risk factors such as genetic predisposition to psychiatric disorders play a role in manic episodes, they have been unable to fully account for the cause of these conditions, such as bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions that include mania. More and more, environmental factors, including dietary factors, are being considered as causal contributors to these conditions.
The authors of this study conclude that this study adds to the evidence base supporting certain dietary elements having potentially harmful psychiatric risk factors associated with them, as well as the potential for certain types of bacteria in the gut playing a role in these conditions – which has been increasingly validated.
Mania and its Significance
Mania is an abnormal elevation of mood, energy, and arousal that lasts weeks to months, and is associated with conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. Manic states can be dangerous, as risk taking behavior often ensues out of delusional thinking; hospitalizations are very common.
It is estimated that as much as 3 percent of the population in the U.S. is affected by bipolar disorder. The direct cost to the healthcare system has been estimated at around $25 billion annually.
1. Khambadkone SG, Cordner ZA, Dickerson F, et al. Nitrated meat products are associated with mania in humans and altered behavior and brain gene expression in rats. Mol Psychiatry. 2018
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.