Scientists at Swiss food and beverage colossus Nestle say they're working on an edible product guaranteed to get the attention of couch potatoes everywhere; nothing less than "exercise in a bottle."

Nestle researchers say they've made a breakthrough in understanding the way an enzyme involved in regulating metabolism can be stimulated using a compound they've dubbed C13, a possible initial step in creating a consumable product that can mimic the fat-burning benefits of exercise.

While such a magic potion is a long way from market shelves or even getting approval from regulators, scientists at Nestle's Institute of Health Sciences in Lausanne say they've made some progress in the search for natural substances that can act of metabolic "triggers" to simulate the effect of exercise.

They've been focusing on plant and fruit extracts to determine which ones might modulate an enzyme known as AMPK, which serves as a master metabolic switch to control the body's utilization of fats and sugars.

In laboratory tests, the C13 compound was found to act on the enzyme in mice, causing their livers to stop producing fat.

The enzymes role is crucial "as energy is needed for all the key physiological processes in the body, from secreting a hormone to moving a muscle and even brain function," Nestle said in a statement detailing their research.

Nestle scientists say they envision a product that can either mimic are at least enhance the effect of exercise, offering benefits to people whose mobility has become limited because of obesity, diabetes or old age.

"The enzyme can help people who can't tolerate or continue rigorous exercise," says Kei Sakamoto, a scientist who researches diabetes and circadian rhythms at Nestle. "Instead of 20 minutes of jogging or 40 minutes of cycling, it may help boost metabolism with moderate exercise like brisk walking. They'd get similar effects with less strain."

Many attempts at creating fat-burning products have been undertaken before with little success, other experts noted.

"A successful attempt in producing metabolic-assisting foods that mimic exercise would be marvelous -- the holy grail," said Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow. "But there's no such thing as a free lunch. So far no such product has ever passed clinical trials."

The Nestle scientists acknowledged that such products could never completely replace exercise.

Even light or moderate exercise has such a dynamic role in human health that Nestle would "never be able to mimic all those effects in a single product," Sakamoto says.

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