Study: Eating beef jerky could lead to mental illness

Apparently, for some people, snapping into a Slim Jim could result in snapping in a much more serious manner.

According to Gizmodo, while looking for connections between food-borne infections and mental illness, researchers accidentally discovered that a correlation between the routine noshing of cured meats and symptoms of mania, depression, arousal and hyper excitement began popping up in individuals in the scientist's test subjects far more often than those who refrained from eating the snacks. The same issues were not noted as being consequential to eating any other foods.

From Gizmodo:

Hoping to confirm that it was the jerky at fault, Yolken [the scientist conducting the study] reached out to other researchers and started experimenting with rats. Because jerky and similar products are cured using nitrate salts, they theorized that nitrates might be the key driver of a mania effect.

They first fed rats store-bought jerky every day (the equivalent of one snack a day in humans) and compared them to a control group. The jerky-fed rats began showing symptoms of hyperactivity and poor sleep within two weeks, while the control group didn't. Next, they fed specially made dried meat without nitrates to another group of rats, finding these rats didn't develop any symptoms. And lastly, they gave rats a typical rat feed loaded with nitrates, and found the same pattern.

So, if you make your own jerky or cured meats at home, chances are that you're likely safe. On the other hand, if you pick your cured meats up at a grocery store, there's a possibility that, if your meat treat is full of nitrates, that you're slowly chewing yourself insane.

Before you go throwing out that box of Hot Rods you picked up from Costco last week, you should know that the scientists responsible for the study are still trying to piece together why nitrate-laced meats tweak rats and humans the way that they do – they don't recommend trashing your nitrate-preserved meats, yet. But if you dig jerky like I dig jerky, you'll want to keep a close eye on this one. You can start by reading the full report on the experiment's findings, here.

Image: by Alpha from Melbourne, Australia – Julia's Orange Marinated Dried Beef, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link