BACKGROUND: Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is associated with a high risk of morbidity and mortality. Malnutrition accompanies this condition and may be both a consequence of and contributor to the pathology. Many trials have investigated the benefits of providing supplemental nutrition in the management of patients with ALD. The present study is a meta-analysis of the available evidence.METHOD: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies comparing nutritional supplementation plus a normal hospital diet versus diet alone.RESULTS: Seven randomized controlled studies including 262 patients with ALD were identified. Pooled analysis revealed no statistical difference in mortality between groups given special nutritional therapy versus a normal balanced diet (OR 0.80 [95% CI 0.42 to 1.52]). In addition, nutrition did not significantly improve ascites (OR 1.29 [95% CI 0.52 to 3.20]) or any biochemical parameters. However, encephalopathy showed a significant improvement or resolution (OR 0.24 [95% CI 0.06 to 0.93]).CONCLUSION: Nutritional supplementation provided no mortality benefit in patients with ALD, and neither ascites nor biochemical parameters significantly improved. However, encephalopathy was significantly ameliorated and, therefore, nutritional supplementation should be encouraged in that setting.