Next time you are at the gas station or a convenience store, you may not want to snap into that Slim Jim.

Johns Hopkins published a study of 1,000 people with and without psychiatric disorders that suggests nitrates — chemicals used to cure meats such as beef jerky, salami, hot dogs and other processed meats — may contribute to mania, a condition characterized by hyperactivity, euphoria and insomnia.

The study found that people hospitalized for an episode of mania had more than three times the odds of having ever eaten nitrate-cured meats than people without a history of a serious psychiatric disorder.

The research points to evidence that certain diets and potentially the amounts and types of bacteria in the stomach may contribute to mania and other disorders that affect the brain.

"Future work on this association could lead to dietary interventions to help reduce the risk of manic episodes in those who have bipolar disorder or who are otherwise vulnerable to mania," said Robert Yolken, M.D., the Theodore and Vada Stanley Distinguished Professor of Neurovirology in Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Mania can lead to risk-taking behavior and can include delusional thinking. Most of those affected also experience multiple hospitalizations in the course of their psychiatric illness.

"We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out," Yolken said. "It wasn't just that people with mania have an abnormal diet."

The dietary survey did not ask about frequency or time frame of cured meat consumption, so the researchers couldn't draw conclusions about exactly how much cured meat boosts one's risk of mania.

To learn more about the details of the study, click here.

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