July 22, 2018
A recent psychiatric survey could throw a hindrance into your consumption of all things beef jerky.
According to a recent report out of Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that those who reported consuming cured meats were more likely -- three times more likely -- to be treated for mania than other patients. After coming to this data through a survey, scientists then tested the theory on rats -- and it held up.
Rats given jerky snacks yielded excited behavior and irregular sleep, leading the research team to conclude that nitrates, preservatives commonly used in cured meats, led to this more erratic behavior. It's possible, the researchers posit, that the preservative had altered the microbiomes of the subjects, somehow affecting the brain.
The specific way in which it influences the brain is not yet determined. It's possible that the bacteria sends signals to the vagus nerve, connecting to the gut and brain, or that the bacteria is releasing butyrate chemicals through the circulatory system.
Though the study is doing much to amplify our beef jerky fears, there is much more research ahead before a clear conclusion can be drawn about the distinct causes and effects of the product on the human mind and behavior.
View the full study, recently published in Nature, here.