Food and Behaviour Research

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Nitrated meat products are associated with mania in humans and altered behavior and brain gene expression in rats

Khambadkone SG, Cordner ZA, Dickerson F, Severance EG, Prandovszky E, Pletnikov M, Xiao J, Li Y, Boersma GJ, Talbot CC Jr, Campbell WW, Wright CS, Siple CE, Moran TH, Tamashiro KL, Yolken RH (2018) Mol Psychiatry.  2018 Jul.  doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0105-6. [Epub ahead of print] 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on PubMed here


Mania is a serious neuropsychiatric condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality.

Previous studies have suggested that environmental exposures can contribute to mania pathogenesis. We measured dietary exposures in a cohort of individuals with mania and other psychiatric disorders as well as in control individuals without a psychiatric disorder. We found that a history of eating nitrated dry cured meat but not other meat or fish products was strongly and independently associated with current mania (adjusted odds ratio 3.49, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.24-5.45, p < 8.97 × 10

Lower odds of association were found between eating nitrated dry cured meat and other psychiatric disorders. We further found that the feeding of meat preparations with added nitrate to rats resulted in hyperactivity reminiscent of human mania, alterations in brain pathways that have been implicated in human bipolar disorder, and changes in intestinal microbiota.

These findings may lead to new methods for preventing mania and for developing novel therapeutic interventions.


Population studies have previously shown links between higher intakes of highly processed and cured meats that contain nitrates and increased risks for physical health disorders such as cardiovascular disease.

In this study, consumption of processed meats found to be significantly related to manic episodes in human patients with bipolar disorder.

Experimental studies further showed that adding nitrates to the diet of rats led to an increase in hyperactive, agitated behaviour, as well as to changes in brain pathways implicated in bipolar disorder, and in gut microbial balance.  

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