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Marmite could help improve healthy brain function, scientists claim

The divisive spread could help boost brain power, a study has found Credit: PA

It's not to everyone's taste, but a teaspoon of Marmite a day could help maintain a healthy brain, according to new research.

Scientists at the University of York studied the brain activity of 28 adults and found that after a month, those who consumed a small amount of the spread daily had increased levels of "calming" chemical messenger GABA (Gamma-aminobutyic acid).

GABA "turns down the volume" of neural responses in order to regulate the delicate balance of activity needed to maintain a healthy brain.

Researchers found the participants who ate the spread, which contains a high level of vitamin B12, showed a 30% reduction in their brain’s response to visual stimuli compared to those who had eaten peanut butter.

Marmite contains high levels of Vitamin B12 Credit: PA

Imbalances in the neurotransmitter GABA have been linked with a variety of neurological disorders including epilepsy, autism, dementia and depression.

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.

– Anika Smith, first author of the study

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Dr Daniel Baker, Lecturer in the Department of Psychology is the senior author of the study, which is published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

He said the research could support further studies into the connection between diet and specific brain processes involving GABA.

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.

– Dr Daniel Baker, senior study author