July 26, 2022 – While people around the world are polarized on its taste, scientists have agreed that Marmite may be good for more than just toast.
New research from Reading University suggests the British pantry staple can help calm anxiety and depression.
The study published in the Journal of Human Psychopharmacology recruited over 475 young adults to take either placebo or high-dose vitamin tablets every day for a month. The researchers measured self-reported anxiety and depression, finding little significant change from those who took B12 supplements. However, B6 made a splash.
Participants who took the B6 supplements, which were about 50 times the recommended daily allowance, reported “feeling less anxious and depressed,” according to the study.
“Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain, and our study links this calming effect with reduced anxiety among the participants,” lead author David Field, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Reading, said in a news release.
The recorded benefits of these vitamins can be found in Marmite, a spreadable yeast-based paste popular in the U.K., which has a high concentration of vitamin B, among other nutrients.
This isn’t the first time the sandwich spread has been put to the test. The 2022 research builds upon a study from 2017 that found people who eat vitamin-rich spreads such as Vegemite and Marmite have less anxiety and stress.
What’s in Your Sandwich?
While Marmite does contain some B6, the study says the paste’s proposed calming effects may also come from its high levels of other B vitamins, glutamate, and tryptophan, the amino acid from which serotonin is made.
B vitamins and compounds in Marmite work as precursors to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an anti-anxiety chemical that blocks neurotransmissions in the brain to control anxiety, stress, and fear, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
To amplify Marmite benefits, the researchers suggest the potential option of combining vitamin-rich foods with supplements or therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
“Many foods, including tuna, chickpeas, and many fruits and vegetables, contain vitamin B6,” Field said. “However, the high doses used in this trial suggest that supplements would be necessary to have a positive effect on mood.”
”This research is at an early stage, and the effect of vitamin B6 on anxiety in our study was quite small compared to what you would expect from medication,” he said.
But supplements and foods like Marmite “produce far fewer unpleasant side effects than drugs, and so in the future, people might prefer them,” he said.
Next time you are browsing the aisles of your grocery store, you may want to take another look at the love-it-or-hate-it spread. Seeing how creating the perfect sandwich can come down to a science, how does the chemistry of your sandwich spreads factor in?