Where do you stand in the great Marmite debate?
The salty breakfast spread has been sold as incontrovertibly divisive since 1996, when the ‘Love It or Hate It’ campaign was launched. A proudly British product, it’s even more controversial outside of the UK – something you’ll know if you’ve ever witnessed an American taste Marmite on toast for the first time. (Imagine someone chewing live bees and you’re not far off the mark.)
Now, members of the ‘Love It’ camp have a new line of defence: Marmite’s apparent brain-boosting powers.
Eating the yeast extract could aid brain power and even help stave off dementia, according to a new study from the University of York.
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People who ate just a teaspoon of Marmite every day were found to have changes in the electrical activity in their brain, the Telegraph reports.
Researchers say that Marmite’s high concentration of Vitamin B12 increases levels of a chemical called GABA, which is associated with soothin the brain and “turning down the volume” of certain neural responses.
Sometimes referred to as ‘nature’s Valium’, medication that increases levels of GABA in the brain have been found to soothe anxiety, induce sleep, and calm nervous conditions.
Those who ate a teaspoon of Marmite every day for a month had a 30% reduction in their brains’ response to visual stimuli, compared to participants who consumed peanut butter – an important process in regulating healthy brain activity.
Scientists say that the study was the first to show that dietary changes may affect GABA levels, which are linked to neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
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Dr Daniel Baker, lecturer in Department of Psychology at the University of York, says: “I suppose you could say [eating Marmite] calmed the brain, and we think this is because the B12 vitamin in Marmite fuels production of GABA.
“We suspected this beforehand, which is why we performed the study.”
Dr Baker adds that GABA deficiencies “have been linked with a host of neurological disorders. Even dementia has been suggested.”
Anna Smith, the first author on the study, says that the benefits of eating Marmite took around eight weeks to wear off, adding: “This suggests that dietary changes could potentially have long-term effects on brain function.”