Branched-Chain Amino Acids in Cirrhosis with Sarcopenia

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To determine the effect of branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation on muscle mass in patients with cirrhosis and sarcopenia, a pilot, prospective, randomized and double-blind study of a cohort of 32 patients with cirrhosis and sarcopenia diagnosed by computed tomography scan who underwent a nutritional and physical activity intervention for 12 weeks was carried out. There was division into 2 groups (placebo 17 patients; BCAA 15 patients).  

Baseline characteristics were similar in both groups. After treatment, only the BCAA group presented a significant improvement in muscle mass (43.7 vs. 46 cm/m). A total of 17 patients (63%) presented improvement in muscle mass overall, which was more frequent in the BCAA group (83.3 vs. 46.7%). 

Regarding frailty, there was a significant improvement in Liver Frailty Index in the global cohort (N = 32), after the 12 weeks (4.2 vs. 3.9). This difference was significant in both groups: in the placebo group (4.2 vs. 3.8), and in the BCAA group (4.2 vs. 3.9). After treatment, the BCAA group had a higher increase in zinc levels than the placebo group (12.3 vs. 5.5). In addition, there was a trend for greater improvement of albumin levels in the BCAA group (0.19 vs. 0.04). 

It was concluded that BCAA supplementation improves muscle mass in cirrhotic patients with sarcopenia. 

Hernandez-Conde, M., Llop, E., GomezPimpollo, L., et al.  “Adding BranchChain Amino Acids to an Enhanced Standard-of-Care Treatment Improves Muscle Mass of Cirrhotic Patients with Sarcopenia: A Placebo-Controlled Trial.” American Journal of Gastroenterology, Vol. 116, November 2021, pp. 2241-2249.

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