Unless you are a healthcare professional, pyruvate is not a term you come across on a routine basis. If you have bumped into it, that’s probably because it was in the context of something else you were looking for. I would guess that in this case, it’s in the context of weight loss. But can pyruvate help you get rid of excess weight? I've taken time to dissect key aspects of the compound and compiled the most important facts around its weight loss potential. You are about to find out if pyruvate is the real deal or just another passing fad.
What is Pyruvate
Pyruvate is a compound that plays a crucial role in the metabolic process of converting glucose into energy. It is naturally produced in the body during the breakdown of carbohydrates but can also be found in other foods such as:
- cheese and
- red wine.
It is thought to play a role in fat metabolism therefore making it a potential weight loss accelerant. As a supplement, it is typically in the form of calcium pyruvate or potassium pyruvate. Marketed as weight loss aids, the supplements are touted as a way to boost metabolism, enhance fat burning and improve exercise performance.
Sounds good. You cannot take promises made by supplement makers at face value though. They are in business. So what does the research say on pyruvate’s ability to help with weight loss?
Studies on Pyruvate and Weight Loss
Several studies have explored the potential weight loss benefits of pyruvate supplementation. Within this expansive research lies the truth on pyruvate’s fat reduction power. Let's break down the science.
A Strong Case for Weight Loss
One of the stronger arguments for pyruvate was made in a major review published in 2004 in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. I deem this review notable for two reasons. First, it did not just examine pyruvate only but also multiple other popular weight loss supplement ingredients i.e. chitosan, chromium, conjugated linoleic acid, ephedra, ephedrine and garcinia cambogia.
Second, the researchers found that the proof of weight loss for the majority of these ingredients was weak or non-existent. Pyruvate was one of only two that demonstrated a consistently strong connection to improved weight loss. Effectively, the outcome on pyruvate went against the grain, something I would judge as a good demonstration of its weight loss power.
That major review was consistent with one of the older studies on pyruvate supplementation published in the Nutrition journal in 1999. It was a clinical trial that enrolled 26 healthy overweight subjects in a placebo group or a 6,000 mg pyruvate daily group for six weeks. Subjects participated in an exercise program throughout the study period.
The pyruvate group had a greater loss in body weight, body fat and percent body fat. Not unexpected. But there was more – a significant increase in endurance and vigor. Endurance would be a boon for weight loss as it powers your exercise regimen. But I’d treat this finding with some caution as there is not much corroborating evidence.
Actually, researchers running a clinical trial on calcium pyruvate supplementation published their findings in the Nutrition journal in 2005. The study involved 23 untrained females on an exercise program who ingested either a placebo or 3,000 mg of calcium pyruvate daily for 30 days.
Almost as per usual, the calcium pyruvate group lost more fat and percentage body fat. But in line with my doubts on pyruvate’s endurance-building power, there were no notable differences in training energy or endurance between the two groups.
The Case Against Weight Loss
There are studies that have failed to find a significant effect on weight loss or such clear-cut results.
One of these was published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research in 2009. It examined the impact of pyruvate supplementation on healthy trained men.
The controlled trial had the 28 young men placed on a placebo or 2,000 mg pyruvate daily for 28 days. There were no differences in weight, BMI, waistline or body fat reduction between the two groups.
One thing that popped out when looking at this study is the amount of pyruvate used. At 2,000 mg, it is considerably lower than the research that reported a positive effect on weight loss. It just could be that below certain amounts, pyruvate may not have much effect.
Pyruvate supplementation is generally considered safe and well tolerated when used within recommended dosages. Some studies have reported adverse effects. In this meta-analysis published in 2014, subjects reported diarrhea, bloating, gas as well as an increase in LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol).
For a supplement, you can take a lot of pyruvate. And I mean a lot. At least one study used 30,000 mg per day and reported no adverse effects in subjects. That said, use the least amount you require. For many of the studies I looked at, that appears to be somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 mg daily. Better to start off with a low dosage and gradually increase it over time as you assess your tolerance.
So, does pyruvate help with weight loss and fat burning? I would say the evidence in favor seems quite conclusive. Some research points to its ability to improve endurance but this is still too weak to bank on. If you decide to give pyruvate a try, stay realistic. Consult with your healthcare provider on usage and right dosage especially if you have a chronic health condition.