The effect of branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation on muscle mass in patients with cirrhosis and sarcopenia is unknown.
This is 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. They were divided into 2 groups (placebo: 17 patients; BCAA: 15 patients). The study protocol was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT04073693).
Baseline characteristics were similar in both groups. After treatment, only the BCAA group presented a significant improvement in muscle mass (43.7 vs 46 cm2/m2; P = 0.023). Seventeen patients (63%) presented improvement in muscle mass overall, which was more frequent in the BCAA group (83.3 vs 46.7%; P = 0.056). Regarding frailty, there was a significant improvement in the Liver Frailty Index in the global cohort (n = 32) after the 12 weeks (4.2 vs 3.9; P < 0.001). This difference was significant in both groups: in the placebo group (4.2 vs 3.8; P < 0.001) and in the BCAA group (4.2 vs 3.9; P < 0.001). After treatment, the BCAA group had a higher increase in zinc levels than the placebo group (Δzinc: 12.3 vs 5.5; P = 0.026). In addition, there was a trend for greater improvement of albumin levels in the BCAA group (Δalbumin: 0.19 vs 0.04; P = 0.091).
BCAA supplementation improves muscle mass in cirrhotic patients with sarcopenia.