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Can Marmite boost your brain power?

2 min read

A study by researchers based at York University has suggested that Marmite might help book brain activity and protect us from neurological conditions such as dementia.

Marmite is rich in vitamin B12

Marmite is very high in vitamin B12, which increases production of a chemical messenger associated with healthy brain function - called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Increases in GABA are believed to reduce brain cell excitability, while too little GABA has been suggested as a key factor in certain neurological disorders including epilepsy.

The study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, involved a randomised trial of 28 people who consumed a teaspoon of Marmite every day for a month, they were tested against a control group who ate the same amount of peanut butter. Those that consumed the marmite showed a significant increase in some of their brain responses.

Anika Smith, the author leading the research team, commented:

"These results suggest that dietary choices can affect the cortical processes of excitation and inhibition  - consistent with increased levels of GABA - that are vital for maintaining a healthy brain."

Great start point for further research

Dr Daniel Baker, senior author of the paper, said:

"Since we've found a connection between diet and specific brain processes involving GABA, this research paves the way for further studies looking into how diet could be used as a potential route to understanding this neurotransmitter."

According to NHS Choices 'Behind the Headlines' service, the early stage study is very interesting but research is still a long way from showing that yeast extract spreads like Marmite can help with conditions such as epilepsy or other neurological disorders.

It's important not to overdo it

As we all know you can have too much of a good thing. Excessive Marmite consumption can lead to ingestion of high does of the niacin (vitamin B3) it contains. If you consume more than 35mg of niacin daily it can cause skin flushes and liver damage. Six Marmite servings could put you over the safe limit.

Some fun Marmite facts

  • Marmite was invented unintentionally by a German chemist, Baron Justus von Liebig (who also invented Oxo), in the late 19th century. He found that brewer’s yeast could be concentrated, bottled and eaten.
  • Marmite is the french word for a large covered cooking pot, marmite was supplied in these large earthenware pots until the twenties when bulbous glass jars were adopted.
  • There is enough yeast in the spread to brew beer from it.
  • Never keep Marmite in the fridge - if bacteria gets into the jar then there is enough salt in the spread to kill the bacteria however if it's in the fridge the temperature will preserve the bacteria.
  • Marmite's vitamins helped keep soldiers in top condition during both World Wars.
  • Marmite contains umami, the 'fifth taste' - researchers from Sussex University have reported that umami makes us feel fuller for longer so Marmite could be good for keeping your appetite in check.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.