Role of branched-chain amino acids in liver disease: the evidence for and against

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Abstract

Purpose of review

There is ample evidence that patients with liver disease have an ongoing energy and protein catabolism. Nutritional management in these patients must receive high priority. The administration of branched-chain amino acids to patients with liver disease has been a controversial subject. This review is an update on the data available from various studies involving branched-chain amino acids supplementation in patients with chronic liver disease and associated complications.

Recent findings

This review summarizes the results of nutritional interventions involving branched-chain amino acids supplementation carried out in different centres around the world. It is interesting to note that no toxic effects of branched-chain amino acids supplementation have been reported in any of these trials.

Summary

Administration of branched-chain amino acids stimulates hepatic protein synthesis in patients with chronic liver disease and this could contribute significantly to improving their nutritional status, and result in a better quality of life. The beneficial role of branched-chain amino acids supplementation in patients with chronic hepatic encephalopathy has been clearly documented in some studies but the exact mechanism of action is still not clear.

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