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Pyruvate Introduction

Pyruvate is the buffered form of a substance known as pyruvic acid. Pyruvate is classified as an alpha-keto acid, which serves as a precursor to yet another physiologic acid, alpha-hydroxy lactic acid. Pyruvate can be created in the body from the breakdown of both carbohydrates and proteins.

Pyruvate, when administered in supplemental form, has been used for assistance with weight loss, exercise performance, and for preventing the aging of skin and wrinkle formation.

Pyruvate Food Sources

Pyruvate is found in foods such as cheese, dark beer, wine, and red apples. Because it is available in relatively limited quantities in these foods, pyruvate is also available as a dietary supplement. Pyruvate can be synthesized in the body during the metabolism of carbohydrate and protein food sources.

Pyruvate Uses

The main clinical indication for use of pyruvate is weight loss. [1] Pyruvate has been shown to be of definite benefit in people who are trying to loose weight. One study showed greater reduction of fat stores in people supplementing with pyruvate in comparison to those eating only a low fat diet. [2] Other studies have also shown that pyruvate can assist with weight loss by lowering body fat stores. [3-5]

While pyruvate is helpful in getting rid of excess body weight, it may lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), which is the beneficial form of cholesterol. Laboratory levels of HDL should be monitored when using pyruvate. Studies of pyruvate show that this supplement (when tested in laboratory animals) assists with weight loss by increasing the basal metabolic rate. [6] By speeding metabolism, more energy is burned and fat stores can be more easily mobilized when a sensible diet is also employed.

There is some additional evidence that pyruvate may improve exercise performance, specifically in endurance sports. However, this evidence is contested in literature. Studies supporting pyruvate’s use in exercise performance showed increases in both arm and leg endurance, specifically. [7, 8] As well, pyruvate appears to be more beneficial in this regard for less well-trained athletes.

As fitness improved in test subjects, the effects of pyruvate seemed to dissipate. However, this decreased effectiveness is considered quite normal in very well trained persons. Pyruvate may be better suited for persons looking to start, or whom have just begun, an exercise regimen for weight loss. In beginners, pyruvate will benefit weight loss and improve exercise benefits via it’s endurance boosting capabilities.

Other applications of pyruvate include its use as an antioxidant. Studies have suggested that this effect may be the reason why pyruvate has been shown to inhibit the growth of certain cancers in laboratory settings. [9-12] However, more research is necessary to assess pyruvate efficacy upon such conditions.

Lastly, pyruvate has been employed as an anti-aging medicine when administered topically. It appears to work as an exfoliant in this manner. [13]

Pyruvate Dosages

Studies of pyruvate for weight loss typically used 30 grams of pyruvate per day. However, one study showed that similar amounts of body fat could be lost using only 6 grams of pyruvate, when coupled with an exercise program. [4]

Pyruvate Toxicities and Deficiencies

Pyruvate Deficiency

Pyruvate is not an essential nutrient for the body; therefore no states of deficiency are known to exist.

Pyruvate Toxicity

Pyruvate is generally well tolerated and considered safe. Some reports of side effects exist, including stomach upset, gas, bloating, and loose stools.

As mentioned earlier, pyruvate may decrease levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol after roughly one month of supplementation. [14]

There are no known interactions of pyruvate with other supplements, herbs, foods, or pharmaceutical drugs. There is a report of one death associated with using pyruvate, however this involved intravenous administration of the substance in a child with severe heart disease. [15]

Pyruvate has also been used as a topical treatment for aging skin, and has been known to cause a burning sensation in certain individuals. Therefore, it should first be used on small ‘test’ areas to determine its feasibility.


1. 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;56:630–5.

2. Stanko RT, Reynolds HR, Hoyson R, et al. Pyruvate supplementation of a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet: effects on plasma lipid concentration and body composition in hyperlipidemic patients. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:423–7.

3. Kreider R, Koh P, Ferreira M, et al. Effects of pyruvate supplementation during training on body composition & metabolic responses to exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:S62 [abstract].

4. Kalman D, Colker CM, Wilets I, et al. The effects of pyruvate supplementation on body composition in overweight individuals. Nutrition 1999;15:337–40.

5. Kalman D, Colker CM, Stark S, et al. Effect of pyruvate supplementation on body composition and mood. Curr Ther Res 1998;59:793–802.

6. Ivy JL, Cortez MY, Chandler RM, et al. Effects of pyruvate on the metabolism and insulin resistance of obese Zucker rats. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:331–7.

7. Stanko RT, Robertson RJ, Galbreath RW, et al. Enhanced leg exercise endurance with a high-carbohydrate diet and dihyroxyacetone and pyruvate. J Appl Phys 1990;69:1651–6.

8. Stanko RT, Robertson RJ, Spina RJ, et al. Enhancement of arm exercise endurance capacity with dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate. J Appl Physiol 1990;68:119–24.

9. Deboer LWV, Bekx PA, Han L, et al. Pyruvate enhances recovery of rat hearts after ischemia and reperfusion by preventing free radical generation. Am J Physiol 1993;265:H1571–6.

10. Cicalese L, Subbotin V, Rastellini C, et al. Acute rejection of small bowel allografts in rats: protection afforded by pyruvate. Transplant Proc 1996;28:2474.

11. Cicalese L, Lee K, Schraut W, et al. Pyruvate prevents ischemia-reperfusion mucosal injury of rat small intestine. Am J Surg 1996;171:97–101.

12. Stanko RT, Mullick P, Clarke MR, et al. Pyruvate inhibits growth of mammary adenocarcinoma 13762 in rats. Cancer Res 1994;54:1004–7.

13. Gheresitich I, Brazzini B, Perris K, et al. Pyruvic acid peels for the treatment of photoaging. Dermatol Surg 2004;30:32-6. 4 Ibid

14. Koh P, Kreider R, Ferreira M, et al. Effects of pyruvate supplementation during training on hematologic and metabolic profiles. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:S155 [abstract].

15. Matthys D, Van Coster R, Verhaaren H. Fatal outcome of pyruvate loading test in child with restrictive cardiomyopathy. Lancet 1991;338:1020-1.