While testing the compound, called SRT1720, researchers found that it protected mice from weight-gain and insulin disorders - even when they ate a high-fat diet.
They also found that the drug appears to increase energy levels when exercising.
It targets a protein, which is also affected by resveratrol, a chemical in the skins of red grapes that's believed to combat ageing and help prevent heart disease and cancer.
After 10 weeks of treatment, a low dose of SRT1720 partially protected the mice from weight gain, and a high dose completely prevented weight gain, improved blood sugar tolerance and endowed the animal with greater athletic ability.
"SRT1720 made the animals run twice as long," the Sun quoted researcher Prof Johan Auwerx, working in Lausanne in Switzerland, as saying.
It seems to trick the body into thinking food is scarce. A similar response occurs with calorie restriction, which switches the metabolism to burning fat.
Researchers now hope to start human trials and the drug could be available within five years.
The study is published in the journal of Cell Metabolism.