Milk Ingredient Protects Against Obesity

Connie K. Ho for

Milk ads have long proclaimed that milk does the body good. Now, there may be research that backs this idea of milk as having particular attributes to boost a healthy body. Researchers found that a natural ingredient in milk can help protect against obesity, even when mice consume foods that are high in fat.

The findings, published in the June issue of Cell Metabolism, believe that the milk ingredient is similar to a new type of vitamin. The discovery of NR in milk was first reported by Charles Brenner, a US-based biochemist at Dartmouth Medical School, five years ago.

“This is present in what we’ve all been eating since day one,” commented Johan Auwerx of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in a prepared statement.

The scientists identified the ingredient as nicotinamide riboside (NR), which is a natural component that gets trapped within cells and works effectively in the cells. According to the Telegraph India, NR is a new member of a group of vitamin B compounds. The researchers found NR as they were looking for ways to boost the gene SIRT1, which can have benefits like metabolism and longevity. The SIRT1 can be targeted directly, which is similar to how the red wine ingredient resveratrol functions. Researchers also believe that they can have similar results by boosting the cofactor NAD+, which is one of SIRT1’s molecular sidekicks.

In the study, mice that took nicotinamid riboside in large amounts with high-fat meals were found to burn more fat and were less likely to become obese. They also demonstrated stronger muscles, better endurance, and the ability to run faster. Auwerx believes that the changes in the mice weren´t just from drinking milk; it´s probable that the compound became a new kind of metabolism-boosting supplement. The researchers hope to see the same effects in humans through various tests.

“You need a higher amount (of NR) than what is present in milk,” lead author Auwerx, said in the Telegraph India article. “We propose that (experiencing) the benefits will require taking supplements that are rather easy to synthesize.”

As well, NR is found to enhance the work of the mitochondria, which functions as the main powerhouse of the cells. As a result, it helped shield the mice from metabolic dysfunction and worked effectively as an oral supplement that was given with food. Other influences on the mitochondria include the activation of an enzyme called sirtuin that can improve mitochondrial function. The new vitamin could “prevent mitochondrial decline that is the hallmark of many diseases with ageing,” the researchers explained in the report.

In a sense, the milk ingredient could offer the same benefits as the red wine ingredient resveratrol but in other ways. Researchers believe that it is possible that small ingredients in a person´s daily diet could team up to help that person maintain a slimmer waistline. In concluding, Auwerx stated that future studies could focus on NR supplementation for humans.

“We´re hoping this can be translated into humans, and that (NR) will improve metabolism in humans,” Auwerx stated in the Telegraph India article.

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