Vegemite may be more than just an Australian pantry staple, with a recent study suggesting the yeast-based spread may help lower stress and anxiety.
New research by Victoria University found people who ate the vitamin B-containing spreads, including Vegemite, Marmite and MightyMite, were less anxious and stressed than those who abstained.
Researchers surveyed 520 people across Australia, New Zealand and the UK as part of the study. They were asked how often they eat yeast-based spreads, which products, and how long they’ve eaten them for.
It also asks participants about their dietary and lifestyle habits as well as their current mental and emotional state.
Lead professor Vasso Apostolopoulos said each spread varied in levels of B vitamins – including B1, B2, B3, B9 and B12 – with those containing B12 proving most effective.
“We found people that ate yeast-based spreads had lower levels of anxiety and stress compared to those who ate none,” Professor Apostolopoulos told News Corp.
“Those who ate spreads contained B12, which includes Marmite and the new Vegemite with the orange lid (My First Vegemite) were even less stressed and anxious than those who ate the other brands.”
Professor Apostolopoulos told Victoria University at the start of her team’s research in 2015 they chose to examine the sticky black spreads because of their high levels of B vitamins, believed to assist in moderating stress.
“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.
“What we want to find out is whether consuming these vitamins through yeast-based supplements in an everyday diet improves depression, anxiety and stress scores.”
The original Vegemite does not contain B12 but is a rich source of B1, B2, B3 and B9.
The vitamins are naturally found in animal products including fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy, as well as whole grains, walnuts, soy and rice milk.
B vitamins – specifically B6, B9 and B12 – may also help prevent heart disease, some types of cancer, and lower the risk of other chronic diseases, the Harvard School of Public Health states.
However, scientists have advised the survey’s results do not prove the spread improved mental health.
“It may be that something else that is going in those people’s lives that they studied. They might be having a healthier diet overall … There are so many things that you can’t control for,” dietitian Margaret Hays said.
Professor Apostolopoulos said yeast-based spreads were not adequate replacements for medical treatment of depression or mental health problems, and asked people to seek medical assistance if needed.
“We would like to investigate further and carry out randomised control trials to see if it can improve depression and anxiety in people.”
Around one million Australian adults have depression, and over two million have anxiety, according to beyond blue.
Meanwhile, a Roy Morgan study from 2014 found 7,550,000 Australians ate one of the iconic yeast-based spreads once a week.