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The buzz around B's interview

18 April 2017 Print

Featured on , Interview with Teresa Mitchell- Paterson by Brooke Hunter. 

Older people have three times lower levels of vitamin B12 in their brains than their younger counterparts, according to a study, which found vitamin B12 levels decline naturally with age and may be associated with reduced brain function. 

B12 has a protective role to play in the initial myelination and therefore protection of the central nervous system and white matter of the brain, which is needed to maintain normal brain function. 

Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in regulating methylation reactions which have varying functions including carrying toxins out of the body and providing epigenetic regulation of gene expression. 

The study found healthy elderly people (61-80 years) have approximately three times lower levels of vitamin B12 in the brain than younger age groups, raising concerns about the impact this may have on brain function as we age. 

Naturopath and Nutritionist, Teresa Mitchell-Paterson said the findings were particularly significant as vitamin B12 levels in the brain cannot be measured by blood tests. 

'While the reduced levels are a result of normal ageing, the unrecognised reduction of vitamin B12 across the lifespan may impact learning and memory later in life," Ms Mitchell-Paterson said. 

B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy and also help the body use fats and protein and support healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. 

B vitamins are essential for supporting healthy nerve cells, making red blood cells, helping iron work effectively in the body and producing compounds involved in immune function and mood. 

The average person gets most of their vitamin B12 from animal foods, including red meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. It is suggested that older people and those keeping a vegetarian or vegan diet should seek advice from their health practitioner about their potential need for supplementation. 

A study by Deakin University found vitamin B12 levels were higher amongst supplement users. 

'The same study suggested people over 50 should look at changing their diet or consider supplementing their vitamin B12 levels to prevent deficiency," Ms Mitchell-Paterson said. 

'Dietary changes or supplementation may need to start in mid-life before the onset of age-related decline in vitamin B12 levels. Your healthcare practitioner may also discuss with you the potential benefits of taking a multivitamin containing metabolically active-B group vitamins." 

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include cognitive difficulties, tiredness, light-headedness, rapid heart rate, easy bruising and bleeding, weight loss, bowel upset and a sore tongue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, ask your healthcare practitioner if you could have a vitamin B12 deficiency and what steps you can take to overcome it. 

Always consult your healthcare practitioner to discuss your particular needs to optimise your health. Vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet. 

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Interview with Teresa Mitchell-Paterson, Nutritionist and Naturopath

Teresa Mitchell-Paterson ADV DIP NAT, BHSc Complementary Medicine, MHSc Human Nutrition, has a clinical history in Integrative Naturopathy spanning over twenty years. She is an educator of final year clinical studies for Bachelor of Health students (Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine). Teresa has also embarked in writing for evidence based naturopathic texts and is a spokesperson and advocate for naturopathic healthy lifestyle. For the past six years Teresa has been a nutritional advisor for Bowel Cancer Australia, and Health and Medical Panelist for the Memorial Winston Trust Fund. 

Question: Why are one quarter of Australians taking at least one dietary supplement? 
Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: It would be nice to think we could achieve all our nutrient needs from food – however modern life, illness, eating patterns, farming, transport and storage disrupts our ability to fulfil all our vitamin and mineral requirements. 
To add to this, there are times where nutrient needs are increased and may not be achievable by eating food alone. To complement diet, Australians are taking supplements to support their vitamin and mineral intake to provide their bodies with all the nutrients we need to achieve optimum health and wellbeing. 

Question: What types of dietary supplements are Australians consuming? 
Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: Some of the most common supplements Australians are taking include vitamin B12, folate, calcium, iron, vitamin D and omega-3 fish oils. 

Question: Can you tell us about Vitamin B12? 
Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: Vitamin B12 is needed to help the body produce new blood cells and for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.
Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in regulating methylation reactions in the body, which are important for various functions including carrying toxins out of the body. 

Question: How does vitamin B work and why is it important? 
Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: Vitamin B covers several vitamins and they all work in different ways. The simplest way to describe their function is to say that they are involved in releasing energy from food. As an example, B1 acts as a co-enzyme for energy from carbohydrates and protein. Other B vitamins have similar functions and may also assist in releasing energy from fats. 
B vitamins are also used to produce energy and direct the body to use fats and protein to support healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver.
B vitamins are essential for supporting healthy nerve cells, making red blood cells, helping iron work effectively in the body and producing compounds involved in immune function and mood.

Question: What foods contain the most vitamin B? 
Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: Unfortunately for people following a vegan and vegetarian diet, B12 is only found in animal products, such as eggs, dairy, meat, fish and poultry. However, even if you eat these foods you may still be vitamin B12 deficient if your body isn't able to properly absorb the vitamin from your diet.

Question: How do we know if we need to take a vitamin B supplement? 
Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: Vitamin B is a very common deficiency, as the main way of consuming quality B vitamins is from fresh and fermented whole grains and meat products. Most commercial grains are pre-soaked and water-soluble B vitamins are lost in food processing, soaking and removal of outer husks of grains. Additionally, many people avoid red meat where the highest amount of B12 is found. This is where a quality B supplement may be useful such as a Tresos B™, or Tresos Activated B PluSe™. It is important that you speak with a qualified practitioner to determine which B supplement is best for your specific health needs. 

Question: Can you explain the methylation process to us? 
Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: The methylation process is so important is because it assists healthy nerve function, improves immunity and supports hormones. Methylation changes B vitamins to their active form so they can be utilised in the body. Some people have impaired methylation and may need to increase the methylated forms of B vitamins. This can help to reduce symptoms associated with methylation problems such as allergies, low moods, and imbalances of hormonal function. 

Question: What's a typical day's food look like, for you? 
Teresa Mitchell-Paterson: I start my day with homemade Kombucha followed by a breakfast of organic pre-soaked rolled oats, chia seeds, freshly ground flaxseeds, and a green or antioxidant powder with fresh fruit, with a good tablespoon of plain yoghurt OR biodynamic organic free range eggs and a seeded sourdough bread with butter or avocado and occasionally vegetables. 
Snacks are activated nuts or fruit and occasionally cheese and for lunch, I'll have seasonal vegetables or a salad with beans, legumes or tofu and a cold pressed dressing and where possible a fermented grain and legume roti. Occasionally, I'll have fresh fish or eggs if I did not consume them in the morning. 
Dinner is similar – however I love curry and often make a bean and vegetable curry from scratch with teff, brown basmati rice, quinoa or roti and a good serve of plain yoghurt. I also like to make bone broth soups with plenty of vegetables and occasionally slow cooked organic chicken or grass fed red meat. I am not vegetarian but eat mostly vegetarian foods 80% of the time. 

For more information on vitamin deficiency and dietary supplements, please visit

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