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Food for the brain.

ONE of the world's greatest culinary enigmas could soon become even more prominent after scientists recently discovered a potential link between eating a 'love it, or hate it' spread and activity in the brain, writes Kristian Harrison.

It has been discovered that it generates an increase of a chemical messenger associated with healthy brain function.

Marmite is the brand name for a British food spread made from yeast extract and it has a devoted expat following with jars regularly snatched off the shelves of Bahrain's supermarkets.

Researchers at the UK's University of York think believe the prevalence of vitamin B12 in the spread increases levels of a specific neurotransmitter known as GABA. Dr Daniel Baker, lecturer in the university's Department of Psychology and senior author of the paper, said: "The high concentration of Vitamin B12 in Marmite is likely to be the primary factor behind results showing a significant reduction in participants' responsiveness to visual stimuli.

"Since we've found a connection between diet and specific brain processes involving GABA, this research paves the way for further studies looking into how diet could be used as a potential route to understanding this neurotransmitter."

Marmite's distinctive taste is reflected in the company's marketing slogan: 'Love it or hate it.' Such is its prominence in British popular culture that the product's name has entered the language as a metaphor for something that is an acquired taste or tends to polarise opinions.

Other similar products include the Australian Vegemite, the Swiss Cenovis and the German Vitam-R. It's a sticky, dark brown food paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty.

In the experiment, participants consuming a teaspoon of Marmite every day for a month, compared to a control group who consumed peanut butter, showed a substantial reduction of around 30 per cent in their brain's response to visual stimuli, measured by recording electrical activity using electroencephalography (EEG).

A jar is available for between BD1.500 and BD1.800 in stores such as Alosra, Al Jazira and Geant, and devotees suggest it's best eaten between two fresh thin slices of white bread or on toast. The brand attracted particular attention on social media recently as it sold Marmite-flavoured Easter eggs in the kingdom for the first time.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:May 11, 2017
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