The Health Benefits of Pyruvate

Uses, dosing guidelines, and preparations

Pyruvate dehydrogenase complex

 JUAN GARTNER / Getty Images

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Pyruvate is a substance that is made by the body when it metabolizes sugar (glucose). Your body makes all of the pyruvate that it needs, but you can also consume pyruvate in food such as an apple (450 mg) or beer and red wine (75 mg). Some people also take a pyruvate supplement to gain certain health and body benefits.

Health Benefits

The most popular purported health benefit of pyruvate is weight loss. Pyruvate supplements for increased fat metabolism are sold online and in vitamin shops. But there is no conclusive evidence to support this benefit.

One limited study published in 1999 demonstrated a small effect on body composition when 26 healthy men and women consumed 6 grams of pyruvate for six weeks and participated in a program of mild physical activity for 45 to 60 minutes three times per week.

However, in 2014 a more robust literature review was conducted involving 6 clinical trials. Study authors concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the use of pyruvate supplements for weight loss. The authors also note that there is not enough information about the safety of the supplements.

According to the National Institutes of Health, even though pyruvate supplements claim to help boost fat and calorie metabolism, all of the studies were too weak to support these benefits.

Some people also use pyruvate for cosmetic purposes. Applied to the skin or as a facial peel, some believe that it can relieve dryness or reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging. One small study involving 20 female patients demonstrated that four sessions of 50% pyruvic acid peels in four-week intervals may be modestly effective for managing aging skin.

Lastly, authors of a study performed on mice concluded that pyruvate supplementation may counteract aging-related behavioral impairment, but did not provide direct memory enhancement. Further studies are needed to investigate this potential benefit in humans.

Possible Side Effects

Pyruvate is possibly safe when taken by mouth in supplement form. However, side effects may include diarrhea, gas, bloating, and (possibly) decreased HDL levels, according to the NIH.

However, health experts caution that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or those who have irritable bowel syndrome may want to avoid pyruvate. Also if you have diarrhea, pyruvate may make it worse.

Dosage and Preparation

Pyruvate supplements are available in different amounts primarily in capsule form. Doses in amounts of 5 to 44 grams daily have been used in combination with diet and exercise for weight loss.

No specific guideline for pyruvate dosing is provided. According to the National Institutes of Health, few safety concerns have been reported for up to 30 grams per day for as long as six weeks. They note however that appropriate doses have not been but not well studied.

What to Look For

When buying any dietary supplement, it is important to read ingredient information carefully before making a purchase. It especially important that a reputable third-party seal is on the packaging because the FDA doesn't regulate the safety or effectiveness of supplements. Look for seals from third-party organizations such as USP, NSF, and Consumer Labs. These organizations ascertain the product is free from impurities and toxins while confirming the ingredient list is accurate.

A supplement product may contain more than just the ingredient that you are looking for. And even if a label says that it is "natural," that doesn't necessarily mean that it is safe.

Since dietary supplements can interfere with other medication and certain medical conditions, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider before choosing to take one. The National Institutes of Health provides a tip sheet for consumers who are interested in taking dietary supplements.

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