Yeast extract may boost brain function

Yeast extract may boost brain function

Marmite is far from one of the most popular foods in the United States. In fact, many Americans are unlikely to have heard of it. A new study, however, suggests that when it comes to boosting brain function, Marmite triumphs over peanut butter.

Marmite is a British brand of food paste made from yeast extract – a food additive created from brewer’s yeast.

While Marmite is one of the most popular sandwich spreads in the United Kingdom, not everyone is a fan. Its powerful, distinctive flavor is so divisive that even its manufacturers, Unilever, launched a “Love It or Hate It” campaign in the mid-1990s, a slogan that has followed the brand ever since.

A new study, however, could turn Marmite hatred on its head, after finding that the yeast extract may increase levels of a neurotransmitter associated with healthy brain function.

Researchers from the University of York in the U.K. found that adults who ate a teaspoon of Marmite every day experienced a reduced response to visual stimuli, which is an indicator of increased levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

GABA is a neurotransmitter responsible for inhibiting the excitability of brain cells, helping to restore the optimal balance of neuronal activity required for healthy brain functioning. Put simply, GABA “calms” the brain.

Previous studies have associated low GABA levels with an increased risk of numerous neurological and mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, autism, and epilepsy. As a result, researchers have been investigating ways to boost GABA levels in the brain.

The new study – recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology – suggests that dietary modulation may be one way to reach this feat.