Information about pyruvate.
Pyruvate is technically a byproduct of glucose (blood sugar) metabolism. When the body breaks down glucose for energy it enters what is called the glycolytic pathway. Glucose enters the glycolytic pathway and is broken down through successive enzymatic steps arriving at pyruvate. Think of pyruvate as half a glucose molecule, or glucose divided into two. That’s basically what it is. Once pyruvate is formed it can enter the all important TCA cycle, which is the ultimate producer of ATP and other high energy compounds in the body.
The various companies selling pyruvate claim it will increase energy, improve athletic performance, and help people trying to lose weight get more “bang for the buck” from their diets.
The human studies done with pyruvate have looked promising but not miraculous for weight loss. The majority of research on pyruvate and weight loss has been carried out at the University of Pittsburgh by a Dr. Stanko and colleagues. One study took two groups of obese woman who were put on very low calorie diets (VLCD) for 21 days. One group had approximately 20% of their low calorie diets replaced with pyruvate and they lost more weight overall (5.9kg vs 4.3kg) and fat in particular (4.0kg vs 2.7kg) than the group that did not receive the pyruvate.
An earlier study done by the same group of researchers had similar results with basically the same setup (i.e. very low calorie/low fat diets and pyruvate replacing roughly 20% of the study participants’ calories). In one of the most recent studies done by Dr. Stanko and colleagues, 17 woman were put on extremely low calorie diets for three weeks followed by diets consisting of 150% of maintenance calories to see if pyruvate and dihydroxyacetone (another three carbon metabolite of glucose) could partially block the rebound weight gained from such low calorie diets.
The group that received the pyruvate and dihydroxyacetone while eating the high calorie part of the study gained less weight (+1.8kg vs. +2.9kg) than the women who did not receive these glucose metabolites.
In one of these studies, the women getting the pyruvate sustained a slightly higher metabolic rate, which is also important for long term weight loss.
Finally, for preventing weight gain, one study found that on a 46% fat diet (that’s a high fat diet) pyruvate failed to prevent weight gain but it did slightly reduce total cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure, therefore appearing to have some health benefits for the people eating a high fat diet. Recent research appeared to show that a dose as low as 6 grams per day caused statistically significant weight loss, with an increase in lean body mass (muscle). It was however a small study and other research generally indicates a need for much higher intakes to get a response from pyruvate.