The liver is a major organ that is located in the upper right quadrant of the abdominal cavity. It is dark reddish-brown and has four lobes. The liver is a triangular shaped organ that weights approximately 1.44–1.66 kg (3.2–3.7 lb) in an adult human. The liver is connected to the hepatic artery and the portal vein. It is the second largest organ of the human body and has a number of functions within the body.
What is the function of the liver?
The liver has many functions within in the body including protein synthesis, production of digestive biochemicals and detoxification. It also plays a major role in metabolism by storing and converting glycogen, decomposing red blood cells, hormone production and plasma protein synthesis. The functions of the liver can be divided into four main categories, storage, detoxification, maintenance and production.
The Main Functions of the Liver
The liver is responsible for storing the sugar that the body uses for energy and growth. This sugar is known as glycogen. When it is needed, the liver converts the stored glycogen into usable glucose which is then circulated around the body in the blood stream. The liver stores fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, K and B12. It also stores minerals such as iron and copper. Extra blood is stored in the liver for use around the body and this can be quickly released when the need arises.
One of the most important and vital functions of the liver is detoxification. The liver is responsible for processing and screening everything that enters and exits the body. When a substance enters the body it passes through the liver in the bloodstream. The liver then breaks down or filters the toxins from the bloodstream. The liver biochemically changes the substances into things that the body can use and disposes of the substances that can’t be used. This is done by turning the toxins into something that can be dissolved in the blood. This is then carried to the kidneys where it is filtered out of your blood as urea and sent to the bladder for disposal. The same is done with toxins produced in the body such as ammonia, which is created in the colon. This is biochemically altered by the liver to allow it to dissolve in the blood. It then filtered out by the kidneys and disposed of. The liver is also responsible for breaking down and cleaning the blood of extra hormones that are no longer needed. It does the same with damaged and dead red blood cells.
Another major function of the liver is the maintenance of homeostasis in the body. The liver helps to keep the body functioning within normal parameters. It does this by regulating the amount of sugar that is in the blood stream. The liver creates GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor) which helps regulate the blood sugar level. When there is too much sugar the pancreas will produce insulin which is used to break down sugar. When there is not enough sugar the liver will convert glycogen into glucose. The liver also metabolizes fats, proteins and carbohydrates by converting them into usable substances. The liver helps to maintain the level of electrolytes and water that are within the body. It is responsible for blood osmolarity. This means that it regulates how much water that the blood cells absorb by keeping the levels of salts and water equal between the inside and the outside of blood cells. If there is not enough water the blood cells will shrivel and die and too much will cause them to burst. The liver also helps to maintain blood pressure. The liver also converts essential fatty acids such as GLA, EPA, and DHA into the lipoprotein forms necessary to allow transport via the bloodstream to the 50 trillion cells requiring fatty acids.
The liver produces a huge range of substances that the body requires for survival. One of the most important substances is bile. Bile is produced by the liver, stored in the gallbladder and excreted into the small intestine where it breaks down the fats from ingested foods. The liver creates serum proteins that are used to maintain fluid balance in the body. They are also used to carry other substances such as vitamins and minerals. The liver also plays apart in the immune response of the body as it creates immune cells known as gamma globulin. The liver releases blood clotting substances such as vitamin K. The liver also produces estrogen and cholesterol as well as reconstructing other hormones needed to regulate bodily systems. It constructs and reconstructs various proteins, such as blood protein, from amino acids as needed. The liver plays a huge role in the metabolism of the body and produces 50,000 systems of enzymes to regulate metabolic processes. The liver makes carnitine which carries fats across the cell membrane to the mitochondria providing energy to the cells.
The liver is also responsible for activating a large number of enzymes and other process to allow the body to function and live. It is amazing to consider but the liver actually performs over 500 different functions within the human body and that is why it is such a vital organ that we cannot live without!