Why the Liver Matters

The liver is one of the most important and under-appreciated organs of your body.

Figure 1: The liver is one of the most important and under-appreciated organs of your body.

Most probably know that your heart pumps blood, your brain thinks, and your lungs breathe. However, most people probably don't know what the liver does.

Unlike the more well-known organs, the liver has multiple functions that extend throughout the body. In some ways, it's the handy-man that keeps everything running smoothly in the background.

Top 5 Functions of the Liver

Top 5 Functions of the Liver

Figure 2: Top 5 Functions of the Liver.

Above, you can see 5 of the many roles of the liver. It's your body's factory, transportation system, power storage system, and waste management system, among other functions.

Glycogen: The Liver as a Battery

Glycogen: The Liver as a Battery

Figure 3: Glycogen: The Liver as a Battery. Your body stores energy from carbs in the form of glycogen, almost like a battery, so that you can run faster.

Since you aren't eating all the time, your body needs some way to store energy from that chocolate bar you ate so that you can use it during a run.

Most energy goes to fat, which is your body's long-term storage facility for energy.

However, your body also needs some energy it can use for a quick "boost." That's where the liver comes in.

Your liver stores energy in the form of "glycogen," which is a starch. This allows the liver to quickly provide energy to your body when you exercise.

Vitamins: The Role of the Liver

Vitamins: The Role of the Liver

Figure 4: Vitamins: The Role of the Liver. Your liver produces bile, which your body needs to absorb fat and vitamins from food.

You've probably heard that food contains vitamins. In order to get some of these vitamins into your body, you need a liver.

The liver produces carriers, almost like trucks, that are required to absorb four key vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K.

Vitamin A is essential for eyesight, Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones, Vitamin E protects your cells as antioxidants, and Vitamin K helps your blood form clots.

When the liver fails, patients can get sick from not getting enough vitamins, despite eating a normal diet.

The Liver & Cholesterol

The Liver & Cholesterol

Figure 5: The Liver & Cholesterol. Your liver helps produce fats and cholesterol essential for your cells. It also absorbs excess cholesterol from LDL.

While too much cholesterol can cause heart disease, you actually need cholesterol to survive. Cholesterol forms a key part of your cell membranes, which keeps your cells together.

Your liver is responsible for transporting cholesterol around the body and regulating its levels. It sends out vehicles such as VLDL to absorb excess cholesterol, which returns in the form of LDL.

NASH

Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis
TL;DRThe Basics

NASH is a condition caused by the presence of fat in the liver. It is a subset of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Over time, the fat in the liver can lead to liver inflammation, the end stage of which we call NASH.