Vegemite could help reduce anxiety, study finds

person eating vegemite on toast to reduce anxiety

How long has it been since you bought a jar of pyridoxine? Perhaps not as long as you might think. Pyridoxine is more commonly known as vitamin B6, and it can be found in what many describe as Australia’s national spread, Vegemite.

Discovered in 1934, isolated in 1938, and first made in 1939, pyridoxine is also on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. It is found in a number of common foods and is used as a dietary supplement and to treat and prevent pyridoxine deficiency, sideroblastic anaemia and certain metabolic disorders.

Now, on top of those benefits, evidence is mounting that vitamin B6 also has brain-calming qualities. Vegemite’s British cousin, Marmite, has been the focus of research in the UK, and one research psychologist has even suggested that people should be eating Marmite to reduce anxiety caused by the turbulent world events of the past couple of years.

Read: Three breathing exercises to reduce stress and anxiety

Dr David Field, from the school of psychology and clinical language sciences at the University of Reading, is the lead author of a study published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, which supports those claims.

Dr Field said: “Vitamin B6 helps the body produce a specific chemical messenger that inhibits impulses in the brain, and our study links this calming effect with reduced anxiety among the participants.”

The study recruited almost 500 young adults. They were assessed for self-reported anxiety and depression before and after being given high doses of both B6 and B12. The subjects took the supplements every day for a month.

Read: How to eat Vegemite

Results indicated that vitamin B6 supplements reduced self-reported anxiety and induced a trend towards reduced depression, while B12 reduced anxiety. In response to the results, Dr Field told The Australian: “If I were a betting man, I would say a teaspoon of Marmite a day might reduce feelings of stress for some people.”

Translate Marmite to Vegemite, which has the same supplementation of B6, and that spells good news.

But what about those of you who don’t like Vegemite? The yeast extract has long had a reputation of being a spread Australians either love or hate. For the haters out there, the good news is that vitamin B6 can be found in many other foods, including lean meat (kangaroo, lamb and pork), liver, poultry, fish, legumes such as Lima beans, lentils and red kidney beans, and nuts, especially pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews.

Read: What’s worth it when it comes to treating anxiety?

However, as good and healthy as those foods are, they might not contain the levels of B6 required to reduce anxiety. According to Dr Field: “The high doses used in this trial suggest that supplements would be necessary to have a positive effect on mood.”

Of course, B6 is freely available as a supplement for those wishing to see if it makes a difference. Dr Field said the research was at an early stage, but the signs were encouraging.

If the taste of Vegemite meets with your approval, it might be worth grabbing a jar on your next trip to the supermarket.

Are you a Vegemite or Marmite fan? Would you be prepared to have a teaspoon a day to reduce anxiety? Why not share your experience and thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

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