Protein-calorie malnutrition may be observed in all clinical stages of liver disease. Nutritional management in these patients is imperative. It is crucial that protein intake is not restricted ad hoc. Administration of vegetable proteins for patients who cannot tolerate standard proteins and, if necessary, branched-chain amino acid-enriched formulae can be an option to these patients. This issue, however, remains controversial.
This study is an update on the nutritional management of hepatic encephalopathy based on several studies of the last decades, involving dietary protein intake and branched-chain amino acid supplementation.
Malnutrition is a common complication of liver disease and it adversely affects patient outcome. Inadequate dietary protein intake has a very deleterious effect on hepatic encephalopathy, nutritional status, and clinical outcome in these patients and must be avoided. The administration of branched-chain amino acids stimulates hepatic protein synthesis, reduces postinjury catabolism and therefore improves nutritional status. Conflicting results in various different trials, however, exist, and this issue remains unclear.