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York, England

It’s the spread that people either love or hate but now Marmite munchers may feel justified as their controversial condiment of choice might be good for their brains. Researchers based in the University of York have claimed that they have identified a possible connection between the consumption of Marmite and the increase of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical messenger ordinarily associated with healthy brain function.  Marmite is rich in vitamin B12, encouraging the production of the neurotransmitter that regulates activity in the brain. The researchers reasoned that GABA levels could be increased more efficiently by breakdown in the digestive system rather than consuming GABA itself, as it is not easily passed from the blood to the brain.

The study, published in The Lancet, included 28 healthy people; half of whom ate Marmite while the others were given peanut butter. Measuring their responses to visual stimuli and their brain activity, they found that the Marmite group displayed a 30 per cent decrease in how the brain responded to visual patterns.  These results are promising for the prevention of overactive neural responses, as these could lead to seizures in extreme cases. They also reveal the role that diet has to play on neural function.