Mesonutrients – the latest nutritional buzzword– are being held up as the explanation for the powers of so-called superfoods. WH puts these mini heroes under the microscope.
Much like weekends, the hippest word in wellness serves as proof that the good stuff resides in the middle.
Meet the mesonutrient. Translated literally from the Greek for ‘inside’ or ‘middle’, it refers to apart of the nutrient you’ve likely never concerned yourself with before – the innards.
‘They’re the active compounds found within so-called “superfoods”,’says clinical specialist dietitian Holly Dempsey.
We suspect you’re already well-versed in the existence of some mesonutrients, and you’ve probably been tapped into this trend long before they got this buzzy new moniker – curcumin, for instance, found in turmeric, is the reason the humble latte had a wellness upgrade.
But others (see: berberines, residing in dried goldenseal root) are a little more niche.
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So, if we’ve known about the existence of mesonutrients for ages, why are they being talked about as if they’re the cutting edge of nutritional science?
While you’ll find mesonutrients in the food and drink (tomatoes, pomegranates and berries, to name a few) you put away everyday, working these foods in to your diet may not be enough to reap the nutritional rewards.
Back to the turmeric latte: the mesonutrient curcumin takes credit for turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, but by some estimations you’d have to chug 11 a day in order to benefit from any anti-inflammatory effects.
That mesonutrients are often present in such small amounts has given rise to a trend called ‘meso-dosing ’– using supplements to boost dietary intake of mesonutrients.
Scroll on for the DL on them mesonutrients you’ll be hearing more about. Dried golden sealroot latte, anyone?
In barberries and dried goldenseal root, obvs. No, us neither. Until your local Tesco Express catches up, you’re best off searching online for berberine in its naturally occurring – if unusual – forms.
There’s hype surrounding this mesonutrient’s potential to help balance blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. But it’s hype that comes with acaveat: ‘It can inhibit some natural enzymes,’ warns Dempsey.
‘This can lead to worrying interactions with drugs – including countering antibiotics– which can even cause cardiotoxicity in combination with certain medication.’ We’re talking heart damage, and not the type brought on by a bad break-up.
Dempsey suggests seeking medical advice before consuming berberine-containing foods and supps if you’re taking antibiotics.
Due to the obscure ingredients this meso is found in, it’s best to stick with supplements – for now. But expect to see lots more research around this buzzy compound, which should shed light on berberine’s benefits, as well as its risks.
Inside trendy turmeric –now popping up mixed into kimchi, kombucha and a hipster coffee near you. Not your scene? Get your fix with an old-fashioned daal.
Research has proven its antioxidant power, which– for a start – boosts skin health and strengthens immunity.
According to one Nature study, curcumin is a more potentanti-inflammatory than ibuprofen and aspirin. The cherry on the turmeric latte? Curcumin increases levels of the brain protein BDNF, thought to combat depression and even Alzheimer’s.
Typically, curcuminoid studies use doses upwards of 1g, but that’s the pure stuff. The curcumin content of turmeric is around 3%by weight, so we’re talking33g of turmeric (that’s 11 lattes).
Top tip? Adding black pepper can enhance absorption by 2,000%. Or you could just take a supplement.
Channel your inner Prince and pick up some purple produce; anthocyaninsare found in their highest concentrations in the lesser-known chokeberries, black raspberries and bilberries.
Stock up on red and blue, too: think cherries, strawberries, blueberries, red onions, kidney beans, and the skin of aubergines.(Don’t start skinning your aubergines, though, the flesh is good for you, too.)
They’re probably receiving the most attention for their brain-protecting properties.
One study has linked cherry juice with improved memory and cognition in Alzheimer’s patients. Dubious? Dietitians smell a rat, too. Literally. The most conclusive study was done with rats, not people. There’s actually better evidence backing anthocyanins’ role in lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Clinical trials ran with doses from 80mg to 450mg of anthocyanins a day. Bearing in mind that you can reap 400mg from a 250g punnet of blueberries (and that kidney bean skins have plenty of it), you’re probably getting your fill as you are.
Is it tea you’re looking for? Good. EGCG – as it’s known in the biz – is the puppeteer behind green tea’s wellness credentials, although it’s also found in white tea and, in smaller quantities, in a proper cuppa.
This natural antioxidant helps prevent cell damage (which gives it anti-ageing kudos), and has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity and balance blood sugar – which may help reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.
Doses ranging from 270mg to 600mg a day have been proven to have health-boosting benefits.
However, new guidelines suggest that there could be some association between daily intakes exceeding 800mg and liver damage.
No need to swear off the tea, though; it’d take about four cups of top-quality cha (and a fair few trips to the loo) to take your dose to 300mg.
It won’t be the first time you’ve seen red in M&S, but this doesn’t involve swearing at the self-checkout about an unexpected item in the bloody bagging area.
You’ll find lycopene in red and pink foods – they’re in their highest concentration in sun-dried tomatoes, but are also present in fresh ones, as well as watermelon, guava and pink grapefruit.
Strong antioxidant properties come to the forefront again. Keeping free radicals in check and protecting your body against oxidative stress means good news for skin, and bouncing back from colds.
More specifically, there’s evidence to suggest that lycopene can raise levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and decrease your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol(LDL).
Some studies also point to lycopene’s efficacy in reducing skin reactions after sun exposure – but that’s not an excuse to skip the suncream post-caprese salad.
Depending on how colourful your diet is, you might not need to. Intakes between 8mg and 21mg a day appear to be most beneficial –there’s around 3mg in 100g of tomatoes.
Now that you know about mesonutrients, find out what you need to know about post-workout protein.