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This Popular Food May Be the Reason You're Always Tired, New Study Suggests

If you’ve been feeling low-energy, you may want to rethink your food choices.
FACT CHECKED BY Kristen Warfield

If you've been feeling especially tired recently, there are a wide range of possible reasons. Sure, you could be not getting enough high-quality sleep, but there are plenty of other potential culprits. For instance, you could be dealing with psychological issues, hormonal issues, and/or your diet could be playing a role, among other possible reasons.

Now, a new study finds that eating processed meat is linked with mental and physical fatigue.

In the study, published in the journal Nutrients, researchers examined 20 young adults between their mid-twenties and mid-thirties, analyzing their gut microbiome to see how it related to mental energy and fatigue and physical energy and fatigue.

meat platter

They found that processed meat was the only kind of food associated with changes in these energy levels—greater mental and physical fatigue and lower mental and physical energy.

Granted, the study did not investigate whether eating processed meat caused these effects.

"We find that individuals who consume more processed meats are more likely to report being normally mentally fatigued," study author Ali Boolani, PhD, MEd tells Eat This, Not That! "With something such as [this], it is very challenging to find causation. We found a relationship, and we don't know if one causes the other."

Ultimately, more research is needed. As study author Lauri O. Byerley, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND, adds, "[This] was a pilot study to encourage other investigators to look at this and see if they find a similar relationship."

Still, reducing your processed meat consumption will probably be good for your health either way. Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition expert with a focus on mental wellness, and co-author of Sugar Shock, explains to Eat This, Not That! that, while eating these foods every so often is probably fine, the research is not clear yet on how much is actually safe to consume.

"If you want to have a strip of bacon or jerky every so often, it's probably not a big deal, but I'd discourage making these foods part of your regular diet," she says. "When you swap heavily processed foods for nutritious whole foods and emphasize plant-based foods, it can improve your microbiome diversity, lower your risk of numerous diseases, and give you more energy."

Among other negative health effects, processed meat can increase your risk of heart disease and even potentially shorten your life.

For more on how your food choices can affect your energy levels, check out these 30 Best Foods That Give You All-Day Energy, According to Experts.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara
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