The liver is an organ in the human body that converts everything you eat or drink into nutrients and gets rid of toxins. The liver produces biochemicals necessary for digestion. In humans, it is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, below the diaphragm. Its other roles in metabolism include the regulation of glycogen storage, decomposition of red blood cells and the production of hormones.
The liver is a digestive gland that produces bile, an alkaline compound which helps the breakdown of fat.
The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines. The liver also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions.
The many cells of the liver, known as hepatocytes, accept and filter this blood. They act as little sorting centers, determining:
- which nutrients should be processed
- what should be stored
- what should be eliminated via the stool
- what should go back to the blood
The liver stores vitamins as well as minerals such as copper and iron, releasing them if the body needs them. The liver also helps to break down fats in a person’s diet. It either stores fats or releases them as energy.
Fast facts on the liver
- The liver is classed as a gland.
- This vital organ carries out more than 500 roles in the human body.
- It is the only organ that can regenerate.
- The liver is the largest solid organ in the body.
- Alcohol abuse is one of the major causes of liver problems in the industrialized world.