November 2, 2021

Nutritional therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma

A Ruiz-Margain et al, 2021. Nutritional therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma, World Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology, Volume 13 (10).


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most frequent primary liver cancer and presents together with cirrhosis in most cases. In addition to commonly recognized risk factors for HCC development, such as hepatitis B virus/hepatitis C virus infection, age and alcohol/tobacco consumption, there are nutritional risk factors also related to HCC development including high intake of saturated fats derived from red meat, type of cooking (generation of heterocyclic amines) and contamination of foods with aflatoxins. On the contrary, protective nutritional factors include diets rich in fiber, fruits and vegetables, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and coffee. While the patient is being evaluated for staging and treatment of HCC, special attention should be paid to nutritional support, including proper nutritional assessment and therapy by a multidisciplinary team. It must be considered that these patients usually develop HCC on top of long-lasting cirrhosis, and therefore they could present with severe malnutrition. Cirrhosis-related complications should be properly addressed and considered for nutritional care. In addition to traditional methods, functional testing, phase angle and computed tomography scan derived skeletal muscle index-L3 are among the most useful tools for nutritional assessment. Nutritional therapy should be centered on providing enough energy and protein to manage the increased requirements of both cirrhosis and cancer. Supplementation with branched-chain amino acids is also recommended as it improves response to treatment, nutritional status and survival, and finally physical exercise must be encouraged and adapted to individual needs.

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