Several lines of evidence strongly indicate that a functional hepatic reserve possesses similar impacts on the survival of HCC cases with anatomical cancer extension
[3, 4, 22–24]. On the other hand, several randomized prospective case control studies have revealed that active nutritional intervention significantly improves the prognosis in patients with liver cirrhosis
[8–10]. Taken together with the evidence that energy intake lower than 30 kcal/kg leads to a poor prognosis in cirrhotic patients
, it is reasonable to assume that a strategy to preserve functional hepatic reserves should be incorporated into a treatment scheme for HCC. In this report, we first evaluated protein-energy status in patients who were facing active interventional treatments for HCC. In these cases, PEM was clearly present on admission as a negative nitrogen balance and an npRQ less than 0.85 in association with MHE that was diagnosed in 5 out of 35 cases. These results strongly suggest that nutritional intervention should be started before hospitalization in patients with HCC. In terms of nutritional support, BCAA supplementation was reported to elongate event-free survival by improving PEM in cirrhotic patients
, while its efficacy was equivocal in cases receiving radiofrequency ablation as the form of HCC treatment
. Although the nitrogen balance and npRQ were not significantly different between cases with and without BCAA supplementation in this study, the limited number of cases does not provide a conclusive result. The significance of BCAA supplementation under active treatments of HCC should be further evaluated in a larger cohort.
It was reported that BEE underestimates energy requirements in patients with liver cirrhosis, which leads to a hypermetabolic state
. Consistently, the BEE-based energy requirement calculated from the Harris-Benedict equation was different from the REE-based estimation more than 10% in more than 44% cases in this study. On the other hand, the total energy intake at home was not significantly different from the daily energy requirement, which was estimated from REE by multiplying 1.1 and 1.3 as the stress and activity coefficients, respectively. Although energy equivalents are considered in the REE-based calculation, these PEM suffering patients suggest that liver cirrhosis affected energy state not only by inducing hypermetabolism but also by hampering the absorption and/or efficient usage of nutrients. Furthermore, the increase of npRQ above 0.85 after admission even with consumption of less energy suggests that it is practically difficult to select appropriate activity and stress coefficients. Taken together, it is strongly recommended that the protein-energy state should be used to define an appropriate daily energy intake in cirrhotic patients using indicators such as npRQ.
The computer-aided NP test is one of the few quantitative approaches for the diagnosis of MHE that were recommended in the guidelines provided by the World Congress of Gastroenterology-commissioned Working Party
 due to their high specificity for diagnosing hepatic encephalopathy
. Currently, however, the diagnosis and clinical significance of MHE have not been well defined
. While abnormal values at least in two tests among eight subsets were reported to be required achieving 80% of sensitivity
, the same setting were also employed for diagnostic criteria in NP test consisting of four subsets instead of eight
. Another problem for NP test is age dependency
. There are no available control data for patients over the age of 69. Hence, it may be difficult to distinguish an early stage of dementia from MHE. In addition, there is a concern that these results may be affected by unfamiliarity with using a computer device, especially when elderly patients are the subjects. In this study, the 90th percentile for normal controls was estimated in each test from a regression line deduced from the values of controls between ages 40 to 69. A high Pearson’s coefficient value for this regression line demonstrated the goodness of fit for all eight categories. Patients who were diagnosed with dementia were excluded from the study on the basis of a revised Hasegawa dementia scale
. Although senile decay in reaction time and/or cognition may not be completely excluded from our MHE diagnostic criteria, the lower values of npRQ in all 5 MHE-positive patients strongly suggested that MHE diagnosed by our criteria was associated with functional hepatic reserve. Easy and reliable diagnostic criteria for MHE should be further explored through extensive studies using a larger cohort to prove the clinical significance of MHE in association with the energy malnutrition.
This study suggested that an insufficient fat source impaired the recovery from invasive treatments for HCC in cirrhotic patients. An indicator of energy state, npRQ, was significantly changed after admission in association with the energy difference for fat consumed between home and the hospital. Consistent with the association between MHE cases and lower npRQ, the relative energy from fat was significantly lower in the cases that were diagnosed with MHE. Taken together, it is suggested that energy state should be improved before invasive treatments to promote a rapid recovery, and specifically, energy from fat should be provided at a dose recommended for the regular dietary allowance, which is between 20% to 30% of total energy intake
[33, 34]. In terms of normalization of therapeutic invasiveness, PT-INR was employed in this study. Although serum concentrations of NH3 and total bilirubin were tested for this purpose, these values were prerequisitely altered due to extrahepatic circumstances such as constipation or constitutive jaundice. Because a single criterion of PT-INR was employed, the relationship between fat intake and recovery from HCC treatments should be confirmed using other measures in the future.
Although the limited case numbers in this study may have resulted in an inadequate assessment of the biological variability, as neither npRQ nor MHE was associated with body compositions such as BMI, extra cellular water, percent body fat, soft lean mass, or skeletal muscle amount, it is assumed that orally taken fat was directly consumed as an energy source. Nonesterified fatty acid (NEFA) suppresses gluconeogenesis in the liver through insulin secretion. At the same time, however, NEFA desensitizes the liver to insulin via insulin receptor substrates, which surpass insulin induction and lead to net elevation of gluconeogenesis
[35–40]. Furthermore, fat from diet is absorbed in the form of chylomicrons and is taken up by hepatocytes as a remnant after digestion at the capillary endothelium by lipoprotein lipase
, promoting gluconeogenesis as a source of energy and substrates such as acetyl-CoA, NADH and ATP. Through β-oxidation processes, acetyl-CoA is subjected to not only gluconeogenesis but also the generation of ketone bodies, which are major energy sources in the brain
. In a whole body, npRQ could increase as long as peripheral tissues have glucose and/or ketones to oxidize even under the situation where npRQ decreased in the liver due to gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis
. Under PEM, it is teleological for the liver that NEFA uptake is increased in association with up-regulation of gluconeogenesis and ketogenesis
. Recently, it was reported that p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase plays a crucial role in the activation of gluconeogenic genes by NEFA
. Although the results presented here should be confirmed by a large scale study, our notion is in line with the guideline from the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, which recommends 40% to 50% of non-protein energy requirements (more than 30% of total energy requirements) should be provided by lipid in parenteral nutrition in patients with liver diseases
. An appropriate amount of fat intake may have the potential to improve PEM and MHE under the condition such as cirrhosis, in which sugar and protein metabolisms cannot work properly