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What is the Role of the Liver in Metabolism?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The role of the liver in metabolism is very important, with this organ being responsible for processing a number of compounds as they move through the body. People with dysfunctional livers in most cases will sicken and die very quickly without a transplant, although liver dialysis has been developed to partially compensate for a failing liver. A huge number of key chemical reactions take place in the liver and nowhere else in the body.

There are a number of different areas of functionality when it comes to metabolism and the liver. The liver is involved in the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, splitting them into components the body can use with a series of chemical reactions. The role of the liver in metabolism also includes storage of chemical compounds the body needs to use in the future, like glycogen for energy. In addition, it takes the components it produces from the breakdown of various compounds and uses them to synthesize new ones.

Almost everything people ingest goes through the liver at some point during the process of metabolism. The liver turns useless compounds into useful ones, sequesters and eliminates toxins, and helps the body manage energy levels and regulate metabolic processes. One important component of the role of the liver as part of metabolism is in drug metabolism. Drugs absorbed through the gut will go through the liver, with the liver breaking them down into various byproducts. In drug overdoses, the liver becomes overloaded and cannot function anymore. With certain medications, the drug must be delivered via an alternate method to prevent it from being metabolized in the liver before it can take effect.

Numerous scientists study the role of the liver in metabolism, looking at the assorted metabolic pathways taken as compounds are processed by the liver. This research is applied to everything from understanding liver failure to developing medications that will be safe for the liver. Scientific research on the liver also includes the impact of liver disease on liver function, and the function of transplanted livers in patients with severe liver failure.

Many people are introduced to basic information about the function of the liver in metabolism in beginning biology classes, as they learn about some simple metabolic pathways and functions of the liver. As people take more advanced anatomy and physiology classes, they can learn more about the complex chemical reactions that take place in the liver around the clock to turn food into usable components, clear toxins from the body, and keep the body in a state of homeostasis.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By comfyshoes — On Apr 17, 2011

@Cupcake15 -I have a friend who is diabetic and her doctor told her that she had to be extra careful because diabetics have higher incidences of heart disease and fatty liver because of their condition of not being able to metabolize sugar which leads to fat in the system.

By cupcake15 — On Apr 16, 2011

@Sunshine31 - I really would have never made the connection. I always associated fat in the liver with alcohol abuse.

I always get my blood checked during my checkup and always look at all of my figures. When I got my blood test from my doctor last year, my enzymes in the liver were slightly elevated but not to the point of having fatty liver.

I am doing a better job of eating a healthy diet and exercising daily which I think helps be avoid the condition. I hope to get a better reading this year.

By sunshine31 — On Apr 14, 2011

I just wanted to say that my sister was told that she had fat in her liver. The doctor told her that she needed to lose weight because this condition can lead to diabetes as well as heart disease.

He also told her that the damage to her liver was reversible. She was having trouble losing weight and was steadily gaining weight which is why she went to seek help in the first place.

The doctor said that this is one of the symptoms of a fatty liver because the liver and the metabolism go hand in hand. The liver metabolizes our food and removes excess toxins so if the liver is having trouble doing this then you start to gain weight among other things.

The doctor also told her to stay away from fried foods rich with a high triglyceride content as well as sweets and processed foods. These types of foods are difficult for the liver to metabolize and the people that eat of a lot of these foods end up with a hepatic metabolism.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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