Long-term outcome of branched-chain amino acid treatment in patients with liver cirrhosis

Hepatol Res. 2008 Nov;38 Suppl 1:S102-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1872-034X.2008.00434.x.


Clinical impact of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) on the outcome of liver cirrhosis is well documented. As a candidate interventional modality to improve PEM in cirrhosis, effects of branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation on event-free survival and quality of life (QOL) was first reported by Yoshida et al. in 1989. Although critical arguments still continue regarding the effects of BCAA, several randomized trials in the last 5 years have brought positive results, and seem to have settled the discussion in a favorable direction for the efficacy of BCAA in liver cirrhosis. Actually, The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) upgraded the recommendation of BCAA supplementation in decompensated liver cirrhosis in the latest revision of its guidelines in 2006, by referring to the literatures from Italy and Japan. Particularly in these two long-term randomized studies with 1-2 years-supplementation, event-free survival was estimated by employing composite endpoints such as aggravation of hepatic failure (ascites, peripheral edema, hepatic encephalopathy, and jaundice), rupture of esophageal or gastric varices, development of liver cancer, and death from any cause. Both trials agreed on the effect of BCAA to reduce the incidence of hepatic failure, thus contributing to the rise in the event-free survival. Quality of life is another essential marker of outcome survey. Marchesini, Muto, and Nakaya reported the improved QOL in cirrhotics with BCAA supplementation. In particular, quantitative analysis of QOL measured by Short Form 36 (SF-36) questionnaire demonstrated a significant recovery of general heath perception score in BCAA supplemented patients in a randomized trial. In this article, the long-term outcome of BCAA treatment in liver cirrhosis will be reviewed with its action mechanisms. In addition, the effects of BCAA treatment on the incidence of liver cancer in obese patients with type C liver cirrhosis, significance of obesity as a risk factor for type C liver cancer, and a possible role of Body Mass Index to estimate the histological grade of fat deposition in the liver will be briefly discussed.