For some, it's a loathsome brown sludge that is unbearable to smell across the kitchen table.

But for Marmite-haters, it may be worth getting over their qualms to grin and bear the sticky yeast extract.

Because despite its bitterly divisive taste, Marmite could help prevent memory problems linked to dementia, reports the Daily Mail.

Starting the day with a slice of toast covered in Marmite boosts a chemical vital to 'calm' the brain. Eating a teaspoon of marmite a day for a month was found to tone down the brain's response to visual stimuli by 30 per cent - a sign of a healthy mind that is not hyperactive and overreacting.


That is because it contains vitamin B12 at more than 100 times the level found in another popular spread, peanut butter.

When 28 people were given the spreads, although some hated Marmite, it appeared far better for their brain than the peanut butter - even eight weeks after eating it.

Researchers at York University now believe yeast extract could be used to prevent seizures in epilepsy, following evidence that vitamin B12 plays an important part in memory. It could also prompt further research to see if Marmite, and its effect on the brain's gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) - an inhibitory neurotransmitter - might provide a treatment for dementia.

Co-author Dr Daniel Baker, who admitted he does not like Marmite, said those eating the extract had less excitable neurons when watching flickering patterns on a screen.

He said: "I suppose you could say it calmed the brain, and we think this is because the B12 vitamin in Marmite fuels production of GABA. We wanted to find a food that boosts the brain's main neurotransmitter. Deficiencies in it have been linked with a host of neurological disorders."

"While presented with the flickering images, 14 young men who ate Marmite as part of their normal diet showed less frantic brain activity than 14 men given smooth peanut butter."

Researcher believe Marmite might be able to stave off the terrible impact of memory loss. Photo / Getty
Researcher believe Marmite might be able to stave off the terrible impact of memory loss. Photo / Getty

This 30 per cent difference in visual response is believed to be due to the neurotransmitter GABA, which acts to "turn down the volume" of brain response, maintaining the delicate balance of activity for a healthy brain.

Alzheimer's experts confirmed deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause memory problems, while GABA imbalances have been linked to several neurological disorders including dementia. The team, whose findings are published in the journal of psychopharmacology, plan to look at clinical patients in future.

Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer's Society said: "there's no way to say from this study whether eating Marmite does affect your dementia risk. But the study does give us a deeper understanding of how certain aspects of diet could affect the function of nerve cells in the brain."