People who eat vegemite and other yeast-based spreads report they are less anxious and stressed than people who don’t eat them, according to new research from VU's College of Health and Biomedicine.
Researchers conducted an online survey of 520 people in Australia, New Zealand and the UK to see how yeast-based spreads such as vegemite, marmite, and promite affect the moods of those who regularly include them in their diet.
Using a depression anxiety stress scale, the survey showed people who regularly ate the sticky black spreads – known to be rich in Vitamin B, including B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12 – reported lower anxiety and stress scores.
As not all spreads contain the same vitamin B content, the lowest stress level reports came from participants who consumed spreads additionally fortified with B12 – found in both marmite and in vegemite’s new improved version with the orange lid.
Lead researcher Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos said the spreads were used during World War I as essential soldier rations, then became household staples when advertisers used now-familiar marketing jingles such as ‘happy little vegemites’ and ‘my mate marmite’ to link them to health benefits.
However, little scientific research has been conducted to substantiate these health claims, and until now, no studies have proven the spreads can play a role in stress and anxiety.
“We know these extracts contain some of the world’s richest sources of B vitamins, which are essential in keeping our bodies energised and regulating the nervous system,” she said.
The study is important, said Professor Apostolopoulos, because more than two million Australians suffer from anxiety, and over the next 20 years, the global incidence of major depressive disorders will be second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death and disability.
However, Professor Apostolopoulos said it is important that yeast-based spreads, while providing a cheap and easily accessible way to improve mood and anxiety, not be viewed as replacements for the medical treatment of full-blown depression and mood disorders.
Ms Kathleen Mikkelsen (current Bachelor of Science Honours student) supported Professor Apostolopoulos and her fellow researchers, Professor Lily Stojanovska and Dr Karen Hallam in this study.