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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Danny Rigg

Controversial food could reduce stress, anxiety and depression

Eating Marmite could reduce stress, anxiety and depression thanks to high levels of a vitamin contained in it, according to a new study.

Scientists at the University of Reading measured the potential calming effect of Vitamin B6, which increases the body's production of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), a chemical that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.

Young adults who took high doses of Vitamin B6 every day for a month felt less anxious and depressed than before the experiment, according to the paper, published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental on Tuesday, July 19.

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Dr David Field, lead author from Reading University's school of psychology and clinical language sciences, said: "Many foods, including tuna, chickpeas and many fruits and vegetables, contain Vitamin B6. However, the high doses used in this trial suggest that supplements would be necessary to have a positive effect on mood.

"It is important to acknowledge that 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. However, nutrition-based interventions produce far fewer unpleasant side effects than drugs, and so in the future people might prefer them as an intervention.

"To make this a realistic choice, further research is needed to identify other nutrition-based interventions that benefit mental wellbeing, allowing different dietary interventions to be combined in future to provide greater results. One potential option would be to combine Vitamin B6 supplements with talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy to boost their effect."

Previous research in 2017 revealed the stress and anxiety-reducing benefits of regularly eating spreads like Marmite and Vegemite thanks to Vitamin B found in the yeast used to make them, the Mirror reports. But the University of Reading said few studies have looked at the role of particular vitamins in creating this effecting.

Reading's trial saw more than 300 participants randomly assigned either Vitamin B6 or B12 supplements roughly 50 times the recommended daily allowance, or a placebo, to take with food once a day for a month. Vitamin B6 made "a statistically reliable difference", raising GABA levels among participants, while Vitamin B12 had little effect compared to the placebo, the research found.

The raised levels of GABA among those taking B6 supplements were confirmed by visual tests at the end of the trial, which also detected "subtle but harmless changes in visual performance" that the researchers said was "consistent with controlled levels of brain activity".

Dr Field, whose research provides evidence supporting the use of supplements in preventing or treating mood disorders, said: "The functioning of the brain relies on a delicate balance between the excitatory neurons that carry information around and inhibitory ones, which prevent runaway activity.

"Recent theories have connected mood disorders and some other neuropsychiatric conditions with a disturbance of this balance, often in the direction of raised levels of brain activity. 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."


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