High Levels of Vitamin B12 in Marmite May Help Prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Vitamin B12 and Alzheimer's

The high concentration of vitamin B12 in Marmite — a distinctly British food spread that many say is an acquired taste — was found to increase levels of gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA) chemicals in the brain, which may protect against neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy or depression. This is according to recent research from York University in Ontario, Canada.

Marmite, though unknown to many Americans, is a popular European yeast extract-based spread fortified with vitamin B12, which is known for its role in the production of healthy levels of red blood cells, which in turn are needed to deliver oxygen to the body’s cells and tissues.

In this study, B12 has been shown to help fight off fatigue as well as boost brain power, concentration and memory.

The study, titled “Dietary modulation of cortical excitation and inhibition,” was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Participants in the study at York ate a teaspoon of Marmite daily for a month. Their results were then compared to a control group who was given peanut butter. The Marmite group showed a substantial reduction of around 30 percent in the brain’s response to visual stimuli, measured by recording electrical activity with electroencephalography (EEG).

Researchers think this is because the prevalence of vitamin B12 increases the levels of GABA neurotransmitters in the brain. GABA imbalances are also associated with a variety of neurological disorders.

GABA chemicals are thought to “turn down the volume” of neural responses in order to regulate the delicate balance of activity needed to maintain a healthy brain. As Marmite consumption appears to increase GABA levels, this pioneering study appears to show that dietary intervention may affect these neural processes.

B12 is naturally found in our diet in meat, fish, and dairy products. This means vegans and vegetarians may struggle to get an adequate daily intake, but they are not the only ones who may find it hard to achieve healthy B12 levels – this vitamin is also famous for being difficult to absorb by the human gut.

Cardiff University research has reportedly supported the increased effectiveness of a spray delivery of vitamin B12. As only 1 percent of vitamin B12 is retained from diet alone, these results showed how quickly the vitamin is absorbed by the body via the rich system of veins within the mouth – especially the inner cheek.

Based on these findings, BetterYou released the Vitamin B12 Boost Oral Spray, a formula that requires four sprays to provide 1,200 mcg of B12. The U.S. daily recommended dose of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micograms daily, much less than offered by the Boost spray. However, an upper tolerable level of B12 has not been established, and most people can take more than the recommended daily dose.

“B12 is a vital nutrient and by taking it orally in spray form ensures that the vitamin is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. This delivery mechanism benefits from the super absorbent soft tissue of the mucosal membrane within the mouth and the proximity of a rich vascular system,” said Andrew Thomas, founder and managing director at BetterYou.