Substitution of One Meat-based meal with Vegetarian and Vegan Alternatives Generates Lower Ammonia and Alters Metabolites in Cirrhosis: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2024 May 2. doi: 10.14309/ctg.0000000000000707. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Diet can affect ammoniagenesis in cirrhosis and hepatic encephalopathy (HE) but the impact of dietary preferences on metabolomics in cirrhosis is unclear. As most Western populations follow meat-based diets, we aimed to determine the impact of substituting a single meat-based meal with an equal protein-containing vegan/vegetarian alternative on ammonia & metabolomics in outpatients with cirrhosis on a meat-based diet.

Methods: Outpatients with cirrhosis with and without prior HE on a stable Western meat-based diet were randomized 1:1:1 into 3 groups. Patients were given a burger with 20g protein of either meat, vegan (V) or vegetarian (VG). Blood for metabolomics via liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and ammonia was drawn at baseline and hourly for 3 hours post-meal while patients under observation. Stool microbiome characteristics, changes in ammonia, and metabolomics were compared between/within groups.

Results: Stool microbiome composition was similar at baseline. Serum ammonia increased from baseline in the meat group but not the VG or V group. Metabolites of branched chain and acyl-carnitines decreased in the meat group compared to non-meat groups. Alterations in lipid profile (higher sphingomyelins and lower lysophospholipids) were noted in the meat group when compared to V and VG groups.

Conclusions: Substitution of a single meat-based meal with a non-meat alternatives results in lower ammoniagenesis and altered serum metabolomics centered on branched-chain amino acids, acylcarnitines, lysophospholipids, and sphingomyelins in patients with cirrhosis regardless of HE or stool microbiome. Intermittent meat substitution with vegan or vegetarian alternatives could be helpful in reducing ammonia generation in cirrhosis.