Monday, April 28, 2008

More Liver

It's time to celebrate your liver. It's a hard-working organ and it deserves some credit.

One of the liver's most important overall functions is maintaining nutrient homeostasis. It controls the blood level of a number of macro- and micronutrients, and attempts to keep them all at optimal levels.

Here's a list of some of the liver's functions I'm aware of:
  • Buffers blood glucose by taking it up or releasing it when needed
  • A major storage site for glycogen (a glucose polymer)
  • Clears insulin from the blood
  • Synthesizes triglycerides
  • Secretes and absorbs lipoprotein particles ("cholesterol")
  • Stores important vitamins: B12, folate, A, D, E, K (that's why it's so nutritious to eat!)
  • Stores minerals: copper and iron
  • Detoxifies the blood
  • Produces ketone bodies when glucose is running low
  • Secretes blood proteins
  • Secretes bile
  • Converts thyroid hormones
  • Converts vitamin D (D3 --> 25(OH)D3)
The liver is an all-purpose metabolic powerhouse and storage depot. In the next post, I'll give you a recipe for it...


Unknown said...

Knowing the importance and varied functions of the liver, it's alarming that so many pharmaceuticals damage it if taken too frequently or for too long.

Anna said...

Reid, that's a great point. I've run across suggestions that the lifetime safe cumulative dose of Tylenol (acetaminophen) is surprisingly low.

Stephan Guyenet said...

That's true. Fortunately for us, the liver is able to regenerate better than any other organ. It can grow back fully from a little piece.

Puddleg said...

That is so; but when repair happens too often, or in the wrong milieu (PUFA, fructose, deficiency) we get fibrosis and cirrhosis. The main reason seems to be that, whereas the hepatocytes repair easily, the microcirculation (vascular endothelial cells) does not; and this results in the compensatory accumulation of collagen; and pathological, chronic remodelling of the extra-cellular matrix is the foundation of permanent liver damage.
So go easy on the tylenol...