Johan Auwerx of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and colleagues identified the ingredient nicotinamide riboside as they were searching for alternative ways to boost the well-known gene SIRT1, which comes with benefits for both metabolism and longevity.
"One way to do that is to target SIRT1 directly, as the red wine ingredient resveratrol appears to do, at least at some doses," Auwerx said in a statement.
The study, scheduled to be published in the June issue of Cell Metabolism, found mice that took nicotinamide riboside in fairly high doses along with their high-fat meals burned more fat and were protected from obesity. They also became better runners thanks to muscles that have greater endurance.
The benefits the researchers observed in mice wouldn't be easy to get from drinking milk alone, Auwerx said.
It may be more likely that the compound would serve as a new kind of metabolism-boosting supplement, Auwerx said.
However, this milk substance ultimately offers the same benefits attributed to resveratrol, but in a different way. It's possible that many small effects of ingredients found in our diets could add up to slimmer waistlines, the study said.