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Volume 86 - 2023 - Fasc.2 - Reviews

Diet and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a short narrative review

The growing importance of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the biggest non-communicable liver disease, inherently leads to an increased attention to lifestyle and diet that are closely intertwined with NAFLD. Elements of the Western diet such as saturated fats and carbohydrates and thus soft drinks, red meat and ultra-processed foods are linked to NAFLD. Contrarily, diets rich in nuts, fruits, vegetables and unsaturated fats as seen in the Mediterranean diet are linked to less prevalent and less severe NAFLD. In the absence of approved medical therapy for NAFLD, therapy mostly focusses on lifestyle and diet. This short review tries to provide a succinct overview of the current knowledge on the influence of certain diets or individual nutrients on NAFLD and discusses different dietary approaches. It ends with a short list of recommendations that can be used in daily practice.


Liver health and the interplay between obesity, alcohol and bariatric surgery

The prevalence of obesity and metabolic consequences, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become a global health problem. Obesity has an important impact on chronic liver disease even beyond NAFLD, as it accelerates the progression of alcohol liver disease. Conversely, even moderate alcohol use can affect NAFLD disease severity. Weight loss is the gold standard treatment but adherence to lifestyle changes is very low in the clinical setting. Bariatric surgery can improve metabolic components and cause long-term weight loss. Therefore, bariatric surgery could serve as an attractive treatment option for NAFLD patients. A pitfall is the use of alcohol after bariatric surgery. This short review integrates data about the influence of obesity and alcohol on liver function and the role of bariatric surgery.


Nutritional status in hepatic encephalopathy and transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt – TIPS, and strategies to improve the outcomes

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is one of the most severe complications following transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS). The identification and treatment of risk factors associated with the development of this complication may reduce the incidence and severity of post-TIPS HE. Several studies have demonstrated that the nutritional status plays a major role in the outcome of the cirrhotic population, particularly those who are decompensated. Although scarce, there are also studies highlighting an association between poor nutritional status, sarcopenia, fragile status, and post-TIPS HE. If these data are confirmed, nutritional support could become a means for decreasing this complication, thereby enhancing the use of TIPs in the treatment of refractory ascites or variceal bleeding. In this review, we will discuss the pathogenesis of HE, the data that supports an association with sarcopenia, nutritional status and frailty and the implications that these conditions have on the use of TIPS in clinical practice.


Sarcopenia in end-stage liver disease and after liver transplantation

Sarcopenia occurs in 30-70% of patients with end-stage liver disease and is associated with inferior pre- and post-liver transplant outcomes such as prolonged intubation times, long intensive care and hospitalization times, heightened risk of post-transplant infection, reduced health-related quality of life, and increased rates of mortality. The pathogenesis of sarcopenia is multifactorial and involves biochemical disturbances such as hyperammonemia, low serum concentrations of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and low serum levels of testosterone, as well as chronic inflammation, inadequate nutritional status, and physical inactivity. Prompt recognition and accurate assessment of sarcopenia are critical and require imaging, dynamometry, and physical performance testing for the assessment of its subcomponents: muscle mass, muscle strength, and muscle function, respectively. Liver transplantation mostly fails to reverse sarcopenia in sarcopenic patients. In fact, some patients develop de novo sarcopenia after undergoing liver transplantation. The recommended treatment of sarcopenia is multimodal and includes a combination of exercise therapy and complementary nutritional interventions. Additionally, new pharmacological agents (e.g. myostatin inhibitors, testosterone supplements, and ammonia-lowering therapy) are under investigation in preclinical studies. Here, we present a narrative review of the definition, assessment, and management of sarcopenia in patients with end-stage liver disease prior to and after liver transplantation.


Nutritional optimization in liver transplant patients: from the pre-transplant setting to post-transplant outcome

Background and study aims: malnutrition and its clinical phenotypes, sarcopenia, and frailty, are prevalent conditions that affect patients with cirrhosis awaiting liver transplantation. The link between malnutrition, sarcopenia, and frailty and a higher risk of complications or death (before and after liver transplantation) is well established. Accordingly, the optimization of nutritional status could optimize both access to liver transplantation and the outcome following the surgery. Whether optimization of nutritional status in patients awaiting LT is associated with improved outcomes after transplant is the focus of this review. This includes the use of specialized regimens such as immune-enhancing or branchedchain amino-acids-enhanced diets. Results and conclusion: we discuss here the results of the few available studies in the field and provide an expert opinion of the obstacles that have led, so far, to an absence of benefit of such specialized regimens as compared to standard nutritional support. In the next future, combining nutritional optimization with exercise and enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols could help optimize outcomes following liver transplantation.