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Br J Surg. 1992 Mar;79(3):217-20.

Randomized, controlled study evaluating effects of branched chain amino acids and alpha-ketoisocaproate on protein metabolism after surgery.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, University Hospital, Linköping, Sweden.


The effect of nutritional supplementation with branched chain amino acids or the ketoacid alpha-ketoisocaproate on protein metabolism after surgery was studied in 24 patients with gastrointestinal cancer. They were randomized to receive one of three nutritional regimens. All patients received a balanced amino acid solution and group 1 (n = 8) received no further supplements, group 2 (n = 8) received supplementation with alpha-ketoisocaproate (17 g day-1) and group 3 (n = 8) received a branched chain solution including leucine, isoleucine and valine, corresponding to 3.3 g nitrogen day-1. Plasma albumin, prealbumin, fibronectin and serum urea concentrations, nitrogen balance and 3-methylhistidine release from the leg and its excretion in the urine were measured. Albumin and prealbumin concentrations fell after surgery in all groups, and fibronectin levels fell in group 2 (P less than 0.001). In group 2 there was also a significant increase in serum urea concentration after operation (P less than 0.05). Cumulative nitrogen balance after 3 days was -5.6 g (group 1), -3.8 g (group 2) and -1.7 g (group 3). The release of 3-methylhistidine (nmol 100 g-1 min-1) from the leg after operation, following an overnight fast, was -0.42 (group 1), -0.51 (group 2) and -0.66 (group 3). During infusion the release was -0.56, -0.99 and -0.81, respectively. A balanced amino acid solution with an adequate energy supply has an optimal nitrogen-sparing effect. Branched chain amino acids or alpha-ketoisocaproate did not improve nitrogen balance or reduce protein degradation.

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