Pyruvate supplies the body with pyruvic acid, a natural compound that plays important roles in the manufacture and use of energy. Pyruvate supplements have become popular with bodybuilders and other athletes, based on claims that pyruvate can reduce body fat and enhance the ability to use energy efficiently. However, at the present time, there is only preliminary evidence that it really works.
Pyruvate is not an essential nutrient, since your body makes all it needs. But it can be found in food, with an average diet supplying anywhere from 100 mg to 2 g daily. Apples are the best source: a single apple contains about 450 mg of pyruvate. Beer and red wine contain about 75 mg per serving.
Therapeutic dosages are usually much higher than what you can get from food: You'd have to eat almost 70 apples a day to get the proper amount! To use pyruvate for therapeutic purposes, you must take a supplement.
Although most products on the market contain only (or almost only) pyruvate, some also contain a related compound, dihydroxyacetone, which the body converts to pyruvate. The combination of the two products is known as DHAP.
A typical therapeutic dosage of pyruvate is 30 g daily, although 6 to 44 g daily have been used in studies. Dihydroxyacetone dosages in studies of DHAP (pyruvate plus dihydroxyacetone) have ranged from 12 to 75 g daily.
Evidence from several small placebo-controlled studies suggests that pyruvate may enhance
Pyruvate is also marketed as a
sports performance supplement, but the supporting evidence for this use is weak and contradictory at best.9-12,19
Several small studies enrolling a total of about 150 individuals have found evidence that pyruvate or DHAP can aid weight loss and/or improve body composition (the proportion of fat to muscle tissue).13-18
For example, in a 6-week,
double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 51 individuals were given either pyruvate (6 g daily), placebo, or no treatment.18
All participated in an exercise program. In the treated group, significant decreases in fat mass (2.1 kg) and percentage body fat (2.6%) were seen, along with a significant increase in muscle mass (1.5 kg). No significant changes were seen in the placebo or non-treatment groups.
Another placebo-controlled study (blinding not stated) used a much higher dose of pyruvate, 22 to 44 g daily depending on total calorie intake.13
In this trial, 34 slightly overweight individuals were put on a mildly weight-reducing diet for 4 weeks. Subsequently, half were given a liquid dietary supplement containing pyruvate. Over the course of 6 weeks, individuals in the pyruvate group lost a small amount of weight (about 1.5 lb) while those in the placebo group did not lose weight. Most of the weight loss came from fat.
A third placebo-controlled study evaluated the effects of combined dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate (DHAP) when individuals who had previously lost weight increased their calorie intake.15
Seventeen severely overweight women were put on a restricted diet as inpatients for 3 weeks, during which time they lost an average of approximately 17 pounds. They were then given a high-calorie diet. Approximately half of the women also received 15 g of pyruvate and 75 g of dihydroxyacetone daily. The results showed that after 3 weeks of this weight-gaining diet, individuals receiving the supplements gained only about 4 pounds, as compared to about 6 pounds in the placebo group. Close evaluation showed that pyruvate specifically blocked regain of fat weight.
While all these studies are intriguing, we really need large studies (100 participants or more) to establish the potential benefits of pyruvate for weight loss.
Both pyruvate and dihydroxyacetone appear to be quite safe, aside from mild side effects, such as occasional stomach upset and diarrhea. Very weak evidence (too weak to get very concerned about) hints that pyruvate supplements might adversely affect
cholesterol profile by negating the positive effects of exercise on HDL ("good" cholesterol).19
Maximum safe dosages for children, women who are pregnant or nursing, or those with liver or kidney disease have not been established.
Keep in mind that if a contaminant were present, even in very small percentages, there could be harmful results due to the enormous doses of pyruvate used. For this reason, you should make sure to use a high-quality product.
Stanko RT, Reynolds HR, Hoyson R, et al. Pyruvate supplementation of a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet: effects on plasma lipid concentrations and body composition in hyperlipidemic patients.
Am J Clin Nutr.1994;59:423-427.
Stanko RT, Arch JE. Inhibition of regain in body weight and fat with addition of 3-carbon compounds to the diet with hyperenergetic refeeding after weight reduction.
Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1996;20:925-930.
Kalman D, Colker CM, Wilets I, et al. The effects of pyruvate supplementation on body composition in overweight individuals.
Stanko RT, Reynolds HR, Hoyson R, et al. Pyruvate supplementation of a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet: Effects on plasma lipid concentrations and body composition in hyperlipidemic patients.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59:423-427.
Stanko RT, Tietze DL, Arch JE. Body composition, energy utilization, and nitrogen metabolism with a 4.25-MJ/d low-energy diet supplemented with pyruvate.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56:630-635.
Stanko RT, Tietze DL, Arch JE. Body composition, energy utilization, and nitrogen metabolism with a severely restricted diet supplemented with dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;55:771-772.
Ivy JL. Effect of pyruvate and dihydroxyacetone on metabolism and aerobic endurance capacity.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998;30:837-843.
Stanko RT, Robertson RJ, Galbreath RW, et al. Enhanced leg exercise endurance with a high-carbohydrate diet and dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate.
J Appl Physiol. 1990;69:1651-1656.
Stanko RT, Robertson RJ, Spina RJ, et al. Enhancement of arm exercise endurance capacity with dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate.
J Appl Physiol. 1990;68:119-124.
Morrison MA, Spriet LL, Dyck DJ. Pyruvate ingestion for 7 days does not improve aerobic performance in well-trained individuals.
J Appl Physiol. 2000;89:549-556.
Kalman D, Colker CM, Stark S, et al. Effect of pyruvate supplementation on body composition and mood.
Curr Ther Res.
Koh-Banerjee PK, Ferreira MP, Greenwood M, et al. Effects of calcium pyruvate supplementation during training on body composition, exercise capacity, and metabolic responses to exercise.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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