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  • Pyruvate: Huge doses may cause small weight loss, but no evidence that small doses are effecitve

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Wednesday, January 19, 2005 7:22 am Email this article
    Huge doses of Pyruvate may cause a small amount of weight loss, but there is no evidence that 5 grams (5,000 mg) per day is effective.

    Pyruvate is a nutritional supplement promoted for weight loss. It has been on the market since 1996 or 1997.

    However studies using large doses of pyruvate have resulted in only small amounts of weight loss and only when combined with dieting.

    Pyruvate seems slightly effective at best and the doses needed would be quite expensive.

    Here is a summary of the weight loss research on pyruvate.

    16 grams of pyruvate plus 12 grams of dihydroxyacetone increase weight loss by 2 lbs

    The first study (Stanko et al, 1992a) put 13 obese women on a diet of 500 calories per day and gave them either 16 grams of pyruvate plus 12 grams of dihydroxyacetone or 26 grams of polyglucose (control group).

    (Dihydroxyacetone is another 3-carbon compound which is metabolized to pyruvate in the body according to Dr. Stanko.)

    After three weeks the pyruvate/dihydroxyacetone group had lost 2 lbs more than the control group (14.3 lbs vs 12.3 lbs).

    Fat loss was also greater in the pyruvate group (9.5 lbs vs 7.7 lbs).

    30 grams increased weight loss 3.5 lbs

    In a second study (Stanko et al, 1992b) fourteen women consume a liquid diet containing 1,000 calories per day.

    Half were given 30 grams of pyruvate, the other half 30 grams of polyglucose (placebo).

    After 3 weeks the pyruvate group had lost more weight (13 lbs vs 9.5 lbs) and more fat (2.9 lbs more).

    Side effects of pyruvate were limited to diarrhea reported by three women.

    36-53 grams did not prevent weight gain on a high fat diet

    A third study (Stanko et al, 1992c) had 40 people eat a high fat (46% fat).

    Patients were also given either pyruvate (36 to 53 grams) or polyglucose (placebo).

    Pyruvate did not prevent weight gain

    Both groups gained approximately 1.5 lbs.

    However, pyruvate did reduce cholesterol (total cholesterol -4%, LDL -5%), heart rate (-7 beats/minute) and diastolic blood pressure (-5 mm Hg).

    Side effects included diarrhea and flatulence, which were twice as common in pyruvate group.

    22-44 grams caused 1.5 lbs weight loss in 6 weeks

    In a fourth study (Stanko et al, 1994) 34 people ate a low fat diet (23% fat) containing 1,600 to 1,840 calories per day.

    Half the group received pyruvate (22 to 44 grams) and the other half polyglucose (placebo).

    After 6 weeks those taking pyruvate lost 1.5 lbs vs 0.2 lbs in the polyglucose group.

    15 grams of pyruvate plus 75 grams of dihydroxyacetone reduces weight regain

    In the most recent study (Stanko et al, 1996) a group of 17 women lost weight for three weeks on a diet of 310 calories per day.

    For the next 3 weeks they consumed a diet calculated to be 150% of their resting metabolism as determined at the end of the weight loss period.

    Their diets were also supplemented with either 15 grams of pyruvate plus 75 grams of dihydroxyacetone or 90 grams of polyglucose (placebo).

    The group taking pyruvate and dihydroxyacetone regained less weight than those taking polyglucose (+4 lbs vs +6.4 lbs).

    No evidence 5 gram is an effective dose

    A recent article in Muscle and Fitness stated that 5 grams of pyruvate may be as effective as the 15-50 grams used in the studies.

    The article quoted Dr. Ronald Stanko, the leading pyruvate researcher, as saying “We see a linear response between 2 and 5 grams a day and then the response plateaus.

    In other words, the response with 10 or 15 grams or more is the same as with 5 grams.”

    I couldn’t find any studies using 5 grams, so I called Dr. Stanko.

    He said that they had not done any human studies using 5 grams, nor were any planned.

    The 5 gram suggested optimum dose was based on calculations that Dr. Stanko made from dose-response curves in animals.

    Does that make you feel comfortable that 5 grams is the optimum dose in humans? I’m not convinced that 5 grams will do anything.

    It seems to me that 5 grams might have been chosen because it is an affordable dose (maybe costing $2-$3 per day) rather than being an effective dose.

    It’s also interesting to note that in the 1992 study (Stanko et al, 1992a) Dr. Stanko stated that the optimum amount of pyruvate seems to be 20% of calories, and in the most recent study (Stanko et al, 1996) pyruvate and dihydoxyacetone was given at approximately 20% of calories.

    The calorie content of pyruvate is approximately 3.5 calories per gram according to Stanko.

    The suggested dose of 5 grams of pyruvate would contain only 18 calories or 1% of an 1800 calorie diet, far short of 20% of calories.

    Other uses

    Pyruvate has been shown to increase muscle endurance (Stanko et al, 1990a; Stanko et al, 1990b).

    It increases the rate of glycogen storage by sparing carbohydrates.

    (Pyruvate is one-half carbohydrate. In fact, it is normally produced during the metabolism of sugar.) There is also evidence to suggest that it may improve insulin sensitivity (Ivy et al, 1994) and reduce blood sugar in type 2 non-insulin-dependent diabetics (Stanko et al, 1990c).


    The intake of pyruvate salts (sodium pyruvate and calcium pyruvate) is limited by the amount of calcium and sodium.

    A dose of 15 grams of sodium pyruvate contains 3 grams of sodium.

    Pyruvylglycine (pyruvate combined with the amino acid glycine) does not have this limitation and may be the preferred form (Ivy et al, 1994), however, it is several times more expensive and human studies are lacking.


    Sodium pyruvate costs about $310 per kg (31? per gram).

    Therefore, the doses used in the studies (22-44 grams) would cost $6.82 to $13.65 per day.

    Note about vitamin B-5 and zinc

    Vitamin B-5 is necessary to convert pyruvate into usable energy.

    (Specifically, vitamin B-5 is required for the production of coenzyme A which is used to convert pyruvate to acetyl coenzyme A which is essential for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the universal energy molecule.)

    Zinc is also necessary for the metabolism of pyruvate.

    (Zinc is a part of the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase which is involved in pyruvate metabolism.) So if you try pyruvate you may also want to take some B-5 and zinc.


    Stanko RT, Tietze DL, Arch JE. Body composition, energy utilization, and nitrogen metabolism with a severely restricted diet supplemented with dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Apr 1992a, 55(4):771-6.

    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. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Oct 1992b, 56(4): 630-635.

    Stanko RT, Reynolds HR, Lonchar KD, Arch JE. Plasma lipid concentrations in hyperlipidemic patients consuming a high-fat diet supplemented with pyruvate for 6 wk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 56(5): 950-954, 1992c.

    Stanko RT, Reynolds HR, Hoyson R, Janosky JE, Wolf R. Pyruvate supplementation of a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet: effects on plasma lipid concentrations and body composition in hyperlipidemic patients. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 59(2): 423-427, 1994.

    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. International Journal of Obesity, Oct 1996, 20(10):925-30.

    Stanko RT, Robertson RJ, Spina RJ, Reilly JJ Jr, Greenawalt KD, Goss FL. Enhancement of arm exercise endurance capacity with dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate. Journal of Applied Physiology 68(1): 119-124, 1990a.

    Stanko RT, Robertson RJ, Galbreath RW, Reilly JJ Jr, Greenawalt KD, Goss FL. Enhanced leg exercise endurance with a high-carbohydrate diet and dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate. Journal of Applied Physiology 69(5): 1651-1656, 1990b.

    Ivy JL, Cortez MY, Chandler RM, Byrne HK, Miller RH. Effects of pyruvate on the metabolism and insulin resistance of obese Zucker rats. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 59(2): 331-337, 1994.

    Stanko RT, Mitrakou A, Greenawalt K, Gerich J. Effect of dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate on plasma glucose concentration and turnover in noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Clinical Physiology and Biochemistry 8(6): 283-288, 1990c.

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