Love them or hate them, yeast-based spreads may relieve anxiety and stress

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / robynmac
© Getty Images / robynmac

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Once described by President Obama as “horrible”, yeast-based spreads are not for everyone, but new data suggests the B vitamin-rich foods may improve stress and anxiety.

Scientists from Victoria University in Australia report that regular consumption of yeast based spreads (YBS) such as marmite and vegemite may improve anxiety and stress in the general adult population.

Stress is responsible for about 225 million lost working days by American workers every year, according to the American Institute of Stress, resulting in about $80 billion in lost productivity.

“Furthermore, those who consume YBS with added B12 score lower on stress on the [depression, anxiety, stress scores] DASS scale than those who consume yeast based spreads without B12,” ​wrote the researchers in the Journal of Functional Foods​.

“There may be great benefit to the community in finding an easily accessible vitamin B source which when taken regularly can augment nutritional dietary intake of vitamin B to therapeutic levels.

“There are numerous groups within the community that could benefit from and cheap, easily accessible form of vitamin B. These include hospitalised patients with decreased appetites, children who are fussy eaters, vegetarians, vegans, elderly people, low income families and people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction who may be nutritionally depleted.”

Not everyone is a fan…

When asked about Vegemite by an 11th​ grader during a joint visit to a high school in Virginia with then Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011, President Obama described the product as​: “… a quasi-vegetable by-product paste that you smear on your toast for breakfast. Sounds good, doesn't it?"

Unilever’s Marmite is a household name in the UK, where the 115-year old brand regularly reports £28 million in annual sales, according to trade magazine The Grocer​.

The vast majority of sales for Vegemite are in Australia (about A$108m annually). The brand was owned for many years by Kraft Foods, and then Mondelez, before the latter agreed to sell the brand to Australia’s Bega Cheese earlier this year.

The new study may change how some people view the products… maybe.

Five hundred and twenty people completed questionnaires about their YBS consumption, dietary and lifestyle habits and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

After crunching the numbers, the Australian researchers reported that regular consumption of YBS was associated with significant improvements in anxiety and stress but not depressive symptoms. The improvements were even greater in those consuming a vitamin B12-fortified YBS.

The apparent benefits of YBS were linked to the B vitamin content in the products.

“The positive results generated by this survey on YBS and DASS scores indicate that regular consumption of YBS lowers anxiety and stress scores, and those consuming YBS with added vitamin B12 have further improvements in stress scores,” ​wrote the researchers.

“Thus, regular consumption of YBS may help to lower the incidence of anxiety and stress in the community. Further studies will need to be undertaken in order strengthen the data gathered so far providing a link between YBS consumption and decreasing levels of depression anxiety and stress.”

Source: Journal of Functional Foods
Volume 40, Pages 471–476, doi:
“Yeast based spreads improve anxiety and stress”
Authors: K. Mikkelsen et al. 

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