A vitamin found in milk has remarkable health benefits like improving energy expenditure and reducing chances of developing obesity due to high fat diet, says a new study.

The vitamin - nicotinamide riboside (NR) - exists in small quantities in milk. Researchers found that giving high doses of this vitamin to mice improved their health. One of the researchers in the study, Dr. Suave, has done pioneering work in this field. He has invented a simple method by which the vitamin NR can be synthesized in large quantities.

Nicotinamide riboside works by stimulating a metabolic pathway that allows sugars and fats to be converted in to energy.

For the study, mice were fed on high-fat diet and NR. A second set of mice were only fed on high-fat diet. The results showed that mice on high-fat plus NR did not gain much weight and were more energetic than mice on high-fat diet alone. NR also increased endurance levels. In addition, NR fed mice were more sensitive to insulin and had lower cholesterol levels.

"This study is very important. It shows that in animals, the use of NR offers the health benefits of a low-calorie diet and exercise — without doing either one," said Dr. Anthony Sauve, associate professor of Pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

According to researchers, NR improves the way energy is produced in the body.

"The research also suggests that the effects of NR could be even broader. The bottom line is that NR improves the function of mitochondria, the cell's energy factories. Mitochondrial decline is the hallmark of many diseases associated with aging, such as cancer and neurodegeneration, and NR supplementation boosts mitochondrial functioning," Dr. Sauve said.

"Our published scientific work has verified that NR is perhaps the most potent NAD enhancing agent ever identified," he said.

The study does show that NR can be a new tool against obesity. However, researchers say that this vitamin occurs in small quantities in nature and nobody knows about how the body will react at higher doses of this vitamin.

"Still, we have very encouraging evidence of benefits of NR and NAD augmentation in general from this animal study — and much more work to do," he said.

The study is published in Cell Metabolism.