Nestle to unlock the metabolic ‘master switch’?

Scientists at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences have announced they have examined how our metabolism is regulated by a ‘master molecule’ which controls the body’s energy balance. The Nestlé research suggests that future foods and nutritional products could use the same cellular mechanisms normally activated by exercise. By emulating the effects of exercise on the body’s metabolism, such products would benefit consumers having difficulties remaining active.

Nestlé scientists suggest their findings could lead to the development of products to help those suffering from metabolic problems like obesity and chronic metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

The next phase of Nestlé’s research aims to identify natural substances that can influence this molecular mechanism. Kei Sakamoto, the Head of Diabetes and Circadian Rhythms at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences in Lausanne, explained that his group of researchers looked at how the master regulator of the body’s metabolism, an enzyme called AMPK, is controlled at the molecular level.

“Ideally, we’ll be able to develop products that will help promote and augment the effects of exercise,” Professor Sakamoto said. He cautioned, however, that no product would ever simply replace exercise, “Exercise has so many different effects – a cognitive role and physiological function – we’ll never be able to mimic all those effects in a single product.”

The potential of products that can influence metabolism is yet to be fully unlocked, as Ewa Hudson, head of Health and Wellness at Euromonitor in London points out, “There’s still a lot about nutrition we don’t know and haven’t explored. You can’t be 100% certain of the outcome. It’s expensive. If anyone is to explore it, it would be a company like Nestlé.”

While Nestlé continues the quest to “unlock the body’s metabolic ‘master switch’”, consumer preferences are continuing to shift away from sugar-laden soft drinks such as colas and lemonades, and towards other ‘healthier’, more ‘natural’ sparkling beverage,” according to Angela Smith, group account director, consumer products at Roy Morgan Research.

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