Patients with liver cirrhosis are often undernourished. In healthy subjects, the pattern of food intake is one of the variables that can influence energy balance and substrate metabolism. The short term (two day) effect of the pattern of food intake in patients with cirrhosis and controls was compared. In a respiration chamber, eight patients with cirrhosis of the liver and 23 controls were fed to estimated energy balance in two meals daily ('gorging' pattern) and four to seven meals daily ('nibbling' pattern). Twenty four hour energy expenditure, expressed as a multiple of the sleeping metabolic rate, was reduced in patients with cirrhosis (1.31 (0.03) v 1.44 (0.02) for controls; p < 0.01) because of an increased sleeping metabolic rate per kg fat free mass in these patients. In both patients and controls, the respiratory quotient was significantly lower during the morning preprandial period (9.00-12.00) on the gorging pattern, reflecting a higher oxidation ratio of fat to carbohydrate compatible with a more catabolic state. For patients with cirrhosis, a nibbling pattern of food intake, including a good breakfast and a late evening meal, would be preferable, in order to have shorter episodes of catabolism during the day.
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