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Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not improve measures of sarcopenia in cirrhosis: results of a randomised controlled trial.

Sarcopenia is associated with adverse outcomes in cirrhosis. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) target several pathways that lead to muscle loss in this population.

We aimed to evaluate the impact of BCAA supplementation on sarcopenia measures in patients with cirrhosis. We conducted a 12-month double-blinded, randomised, controlled trial of BCAA supplementation (30 g daily) compared to an equicaloric, equi-nitrogenous whey protein in volunteers with cirrhosis and reduced muscle strength.

The primary endpoint was an increase in grip strength and upper limb lean mass measured on DEXA. Mean-adjusted differences (MAD, 95% CI) between groups at 6 and 12 months are reported as treatment effect using a linear mixed model for repeated measures.

A total of 150 volunteers entered the trial (74 BCAA, 76 control), with a median age of 58 years [IQR 48; 63] and MELD of 14 [12; 17]. At 12 months, 57% in the BCAA arm and 61% in the control arm met the primary endpoint (p = 0.80).

No significant between-group difference was found in grip strength (MAD -0.15 kg [-0.37; 0.06], p = 0.29) or upper limb lean mass (1.7 kg [-0.2; 3.6], p = 0.22) at 12 months. No significant differences in other body composition parameters, physical performance, frailty, rates of hospitalisation or mortality were found between the BCAA and the control group.

Fatigue improved across the entire cohort, without significant between-group differences. 15% of volunteers reported side effects, with distaste higher in the BCAA arm (p = 0.045). BCAA supplementation did not improve measures of muscle strength, mass or performance or physical frailty compared to a whey protein supplement in a randomised controlled setting.


Brooke Chapman


University of Melbourne



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Main topics

Publications Clinical Trials

Liver Diseases
Gastrointestinal Diseases
Intestinal Diseases
Intestinal Failure
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