Marmite is good for the brain, York study suggests

Eating a spoonful of Marmite everyday could have a positive impact on your brain’s health, researchers at York have found.

A group from the University of York’s Department of Psychology have identified a potential link between Marmite and the increase of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) – a chemical messenger which is associated with healthy brain function.

Marmite contains a high concentration of vitamin B12 Image:Flickr

Dr Daniel Baker, Lecturer in the Department of Psychology and senior author of the paper, said: “The high concentration of Vitamin B12 in Marmite is likely to be the primary factor behind results showing a significant reduction in participants’ responsiveness to visual stimuli.”

The study looked at 28 healthy volunteers who were split into two groups; half ate a teaspoon of Marmite every day for a month whilst the control group where given peanut butter.

The participants’ responses to visual stimuli were measured and they recorded electrical activity in the brain using electroencephalography (EEG). Subjects that had been eating the “yeast extract product” saw a reduction of around 30% in the brain’s response to the visual stimuli.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter; it reduces the excitability of neurons in the brain, as a delicate balance of activity is needed for brain health. Abnormal levels of GABA are associated with epilepsy, autism and depression.

Anika Smith, PhD student in York’s Department of Psychology and first author of the study, said: “These results suggest that dietary choices can affect the cortical processes of excitation and inhibition – consistent with increased levels of GABA – that are vital in maintaining a healthy brain.

“As the effects of Marmite consumption took around eight weeks to wear off after participants stopped the study, this suggests that dietary changes could potentially have long-term effects on brain function.

“This is a really promising first example of how dietary interventions can alter cortical processes, and a great starting point for exploring whether a more refined version of this technique could have some medical or therapeutic applications in the future. Of course, further research is needed to confirm and investigate this, but the study is an excellent basis for this.”

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