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Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 Jul;31(7):878-884. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0000000000001368.

Can L-carnitine supplementation and exercise improve muscle complications in patients with liver cirrhosis who receive branched-chain amino acid supplementation?

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Gastroenterology Center.
Department of Rehabilitation, Ehime Prefectural Central Hospital, Matsuyama.
Department of Gastroenterology and Metabiology, Ehime University Graduate School of Medicine, Matsuyama, Japan.



The aim of this study was to elucidate the efficacy of the combination of L-carnitine and exercise, reported to prevent muscle wasting, for muscle complications (function, volume, and cramping) in patients with liver cirrhosis (LC) who received branched-chain amino acid supplementation.


From December 2017 to April 2018, 18 patients with LC who had been given branched-chain amino acid granule supplementation (12.45 g/day) were enrolled (mean age 68.4±10.8 years; 10 males and eight females; Child-Pugh A : B=9 : 9). After evaluating the average number of daily steps, oral L-carnitine supplementation (1000 mg/day) and additional exercise (plus 2000 steps/day) were added for 6 months. Every 4 weeks, a pedometer, a hand dynamometer, ergometer, and bioelectrical impedance analysis were used to evaluate daily steps, muscle function and muscle volume, and muscle cramps were recorded using a numerical rating scale.


Average steps and serum levels of total and free carnitine were increased from before treatment to the final measurement (1883.5±1211.6 vs. 3165.1±1800.0/day, 62.6±16.5 vs. 110.9±28.6 μmol/l, and 47.7±15.2 vs. 83.2±21.5 μmol/l, respectively; P<0.01), whereas there were no significant changes in the ratios of handgrip strength, leg strength, and muscle volume after 6 months [1.00±0.13 (P=0.991), 1.07±0.13 (P=0.073), and 0.992±0.036 (P=0.390), respectively]. However, the frequency of complaints of muscle cramping was reduced as compared with the start of therapy (baseline, 3 months, and 6 months: 6.3±4.8, 3.1±3.3, and 2.1±2.0, respectively) (P=0.025, Holm's method), whereas numerical rating scale did not show any significant improvement.


L-Carnitine may have an important role for prevention of muscle wasting and reducing the frequency of muscle cramping.

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