Additives in meat linked to mania and bipolar disorder: it’s official

We’ve been saying it for 25 years. Now researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the US have found out for themselves: common additives in processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami, chorizo and hot dogs can cause symptoms of mental illness.


What is mania?

A symptom of bipolar disorder marked by periods of heightened mood that can include:
- great excitement, euphoria, or irritability
- increased energy, decreased need for sleep, and hyperactivity
- a compulsion to speak
- difficulty paying attention
- increased distractability
- delusions

What the researchers found

  • a history of eating nitrated dry cured meat but not other meat or fish products was strongly and associated with current mania
  • feeding meat 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

Amanda’s story [805]

When our 9 year old has consumed nitrates or other preservatives she becomes deeply depressed, highly irritable, intolerant to noise and self destructive … e.g.

- attempt to jump off a balcony
- scratch her nails deeply into her legs
- bang her head on the refrigerator
- threaten to kill herself.

Nitrates are not the only culprits

As Amanda notes, it is not only nitrates that affect her daughter. Similarly, a reader from Europe [340] who took the psychiatric drug Seroxat for 6 years after a diagnosis of postnatal depression finds the local hot dog sausages to be just one of the problems:

I still find it hard to believe the difference I have gained in myself from mainly the diet change. I respond to high salicylates and medium amines, but the things that affect me worst have combinations of both, such as wine, cheese, and local hot dog sausages.

More reader stories about food-induced mania

The avocado story

After years of thinking I had a mental illness, being told I had bipolar, filling my body with hideous drugs that made my hair fall out, gave my acne and basically turned me into a zombie and got me to a point where I was totally ready to end my life, I have been totally drug free, symptom free and depression free and manic free since we started FS!  I didn’t start FS for me, I was doing it for my boys! 8 months have passed and I haven't bothered to do the challenges myself, I’ve been too busy trying to sort all their issues out. Well this week, I have been testing my boys on the different types of amines. For the last 3 days we have all been eating avocados! OMG THEY ARE SO YUMMY!

I am sitting at my desk today, I feel so horrible. I’m crying at everything, it feels like the world is caving in on me, I feel like nothing is right, I’m anxious, frustrated, angry, sad, ....... Oh that’s right, according to Drs I have BIPOLAR! quick take some drugs!

NOTE TO SELF! STOP EATING AVOCADOS! and remember this horrible feeling will pass as soon as this food is out of my system! – facebook group member from story [1227]

The ham sandwich story

A few months ago my 6 yo son started getting very clingy, crying and not being able to read or write properly and was not able to concentrate … After about 1 week (on the additive free diet in your book) everything had improved dramatically.

When I introduced nitrates (ham), he went pretty nutty after eating it, not violent, just manic. The next day he had bad eczema and was unable to read or write properly when I asked. The teacher also mentioned that he was having trouble concentrating again. He was also crying and clinging to me when it was time to drop him at school. The effects lasted about 5 days. I realized of course that when he had the previous problems he was having ham sandwiches (not something he would normally eat). I then went back to the additive-free diet again - Michelle from story [855]


I wish these researchers would look more widely at other food chemicals as well. In fact, they don’t even have to reinvent the wheel – they could just look at the research from Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital allergy unit. As Amanda says:

I wonder if the epidemic of depression is in fact an epidemic of food intolerances/sensitivities – or if I want to be more inflammatory, the poisoning of modern mankind!

The researchers say: “These findings may lead to new methods for preventing mania and for developing novel therapeutic interventions.”

WHAT?!? Meats processed with nitrates/nitrites have recently been classified as Class 1 carcinogens because they can cause colorectal cancer - which is now the second highest cause of cancer deaths and increasing - it is thought that 1 Australian in 13 will develop colon cancer in their lifetimes - and know we know they cause mental illness.  Why don’t we just stop eating them??? 

More info

What is mania?

Reader story collection about food-induced depression

Suicide prevention by diet

No need to reinvent the wheel : RPAH research paper about food intolerance 

Khambadkone SG and others, Nitrated meat products are associated with mania in humans and altered behavior and brain gene expression in rats. Mol Psychiatry. Published online July 18, 2018.
From the abstract: Mania is a serious neuropsychiatric condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality …

Yes, bacon really is killing us

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