Exercise in a bottle

2014-11-21 00:00

HIDDEN near Lake Genèva, a handful of scientists from Nestlé are surreptitiously working on what could be any couch ­potato’s dream — exercise in a bottle.

The world’s biggest food company, well-known for their KitKat chocolates and Nespresso coffee capsules, said they have identified how an enzyme that ­regulates a person’s metabolism can be ­stimulated — probably the first step in ­developing a way of emulating the effect of exercise.

These findings were published in the science journal Chemistry and Biology in July.

Although many slimming health drinks and health bars are still very far from this ideal, eight scientists from the Nestlé ­Institute in Switzerland are in the process of searching for natural substances that can lead to weight-loss.

“The line between food and pharmaceutical will become more blurred in coming years,” said Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst with Bank Vontobel. “Companies with a diversified, healthier food portfolio will be the ultimate winners.”

The figures are already indicating this. Consumers’ appetite for food that has a noticeable health benefit, like organic juices and gluten-free pasta, are likely to overtake traditional packaged food by 2019.

The healthier options have over the past 10 years already grown at a steadier pace than normal food, according to the research firm Euromonitor International.

At the Swiss Federal Institute of ­Technology, Nestlé are now busy ­developing a food product that mimics or enhances the effect of exercise for people with impaired mobility due to old age, ­diabetes or obesity, said Kei Sakamoto, the ­scientist leading the research.

“The enzyme will be able to help people that cannot do rigorous exercise,” he said.

“Instead of walking for 20 minutes or cycling for 40 minutes, it can help the ­metabolism with mild exercise, like a short walk. They will feel the same effect, but with less effort.”

With this research, Nestlé are also entering territory where pharmaceutical companies have been testing the water for some time, but without success.

“A successful attempt to produce metabolism-supporting food that mimics exercise would be amazing — the Holy Grail,” said Naveed Sattar, a professor in metabolical medicine at the University of Glasgow. “But no product has so far passed any clinical tests.”

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