We’re all familiar with macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), but what comes between the big and the small?
Meso means middle in Greek and it’s here that the wellness world is turning for its next health fix. Mesonutrients are the active compounds in the ever-turning carousel of so-called superfoods; the part of the turmeric latte or matcha ice cream that lends those fads a healthy halo.
This might all sound fanciful, but the concept does appear to be gaining traction. A recent Mintel report on the future of nutrition, health and wellness noted that “dietary intervention will reach a molecular level through the health significance of mesonutrients.”
As research into the meso world develops and consumers continue to look for natural health solutions, some people are starting to ‘meso-dose’ – to enjoy more supercharged foods and drinks for maximum results.
Ones to watch
Not all mesonutrients are created equal and some have risen to greater prominence than others. Here are some of the most popular compounds, including what they are, where they are found and their alleged health benefits.
Alleged benefits: balances blood sugar, anti-inflammatory
Found in: goldenseal, barberries
Found in: blue spirulina
Alleged benefits: natural energy booster
Found in: (yes, you guessed right) saffron
Alleged benefits: natural appetite suppressant, libido booster, anti-depressant
Found in: berries and cherries
Alleged benefits: immunity
Mesonutrient: Epigallocatechin gallate EGCG
Found in: green tea
Alleged benefits: helps promote a healthy heart, weight loss
Mesonutrient: pyrroloquinoline quinone
Found in: kiwi fruit
Alleged benefits: anti-ageing, cognitive health
Found in: turmeric
Alleged benefits: anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative
On the shelves
While mesonutrients are traditionally found in supplement form and becoming popular in drinks, a number of food brands are beginning to emphasise them too.
Online company Super U sells an all-natural spirulina powder (containing phycocyanin) to enhance smoothie bowls and ice creams, creating bright, Insta-worthy creations.
Montmorency cherries (containing anthocyanins) have become a snacking favourite, with even mainstream brands such as Costco launching multiple different formats.
The Potato Shop in Kent is on a mission to educate consumers about the breadth of variety of the humble potato. They sell, and sing the merits of, many purple varieties (also high in anthocyanins). Potato supplier Albert Bartlett highlights the anthocyanins in its Purple Majesty potatoes, having worked with Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh and the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Invergowrie to analyse the nutritional and health properties of the spuds.
Dairy- and gluten-free soup brand Soupologie has developed a turmeric, carrot and coconut Glow soup, which contains active ingredient curcumin.
The matcha KitKat is also about to hit European shores, and though it’s unclear how much ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate) the chocolate bar contains – probably very little – it’s just one of a number of matcha products containing the mesonutrient that are heading West.
Small doses that enhance food products might actually be the best way for consumers to get their mesonutrients. Nutritionist Dr Laura Wyness points out that last year, news emerged that a man was forced to have a liver transplant after a couple of months of ingesting green tea capsules, which contain ECGC.
“Many mesonutrients have beneficial effects, such as antioxidant or anti-inflammatory impacts, but too much of a good thing, even antioxidants, are sometimes not the best option,” she says.
“If these types of ingredients are used more widely to help flavour products (and possibly reduce the need for salt, sugar or fat), then great. I’d say it’s probably best to use these to enhance foods rather than make them the main focus by taking a high dose.”