Background/Aims Protein-restricted diets are usually prescribed for cirrhotic patients with hepatic encephalopathy. However, protein restriction may worsen the nutritional status without resulting in an improvement of hepatic encephalopathy. We designed a study to assess the effects of the amount of protein in the diet on the evolution of episodic hepatic encephalopathy. Methods Cirrhotics admitted to the hospital because of an episode of encephalopathy (n=30) were randomized to receive a low-protein diet with progressive increments or a normal protein diet for 14 days, in addition to standard measures to treat hepatic encephalopathy. Protein synthesis and breakdown were studied at day 2 and day 14 with the glycine-N15 infusion method. Results The outcome of hepatic encephalopathy was not significantly different between both groups of treatment. Protein synthesis was similar for low and normal protein diet, but those of the low-protein diet group showed higher protein breakdown. Conclusions Diets with a normal content of protein, which are metabolically more adequate, can be administered safely to cirrhotic patients with episodic hepatic encephalopathy. Restriction of the content of protein of the diet does not appear to have any beneficial effect for cirrhotic patients during an episode of encephalopathy. © 2004 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
- Low-protein diet