It has been proposed that hepatic encephalopathy and malnutrition in cirrhosis can be reversed by infusion of a protein formula (F080) enriched with branched-chain amino acids (valine, leucine, isoleucine) and containing decreased amounts of aromatic amino acids (phenylalanine, tyrosine, tryptophan). This hypothesis was tested by measuring changes in encephalopathy status, plasma ammonia, amino acid profile, and liver function during seven metabolic balance studies in three patients with cirrhosis and subclinical encephalopathy given increasing amounts (20-100 g/d) of F080. The results showed the following: 1) positive nitrogen balance was achieved only with 80 and 100 g F080/day; 2) plasma ammonia fell during negative, but increased during positive nitrogen balance; 3) plasma tyrosine and cystine fell significantly (p less than 0.05) with all intakes of F080; 4) the abnormal branched-chain to aromatic amino acid ratio was reversed; 5) extracellular volume was expanded in all patients; 6) albumin, bilirubin, prothrombin time became abnormal; and 7) encephalopathy did not significantly change from baseline. It is concluded that, in this population, F080 is an inadequate nutritional formula when given as the sole protein source because it produces hypotyrosinemia and hypocystinemia. The marked changes in the ratio of branched-chain to aromatic amino acids are not accompanied by improvement in encephalopathy.
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