The human liver is the ultimate multitasker, it performs many different functions all at the same time without you even asking.
The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body and has over 500 functions. In fact, it is the second most complex organ after the brain and is involved in almost every aspect of the body’s metabolic processes. Its main functions are energy production, removal of harmful substances and the production of proteins. These tasks are carried out within liver cells called hepatocytes, which sit in complex arrangements to maximize efficiency.
The liver is the body’s main powerhouse, producing and storing glucose as a key energy source. It also responsible for breaking down complex fat molecules and building them up into cholesterol and triglycerides, which the body needs but in excess are bad.
The liver makes many complex proteins, including clotting factors which are vital in arresting bleeding. Bile, which helps digest fat in the intestines, is produced in the liver and stored in the adjacent gallbladder.
The liver also plays a key role in detoxifying the blood. Waste products, toxins and drugs are processed here into forms which are easier for the rest of the body to use or excrete. The liver also breaks down old blood cells, produces antibodies to fight infection and recycles hormones such as adrenaline. Numerous essential vitamins and minerals are stored in the liver; vitamins A, D, E and K, iron and copper.
Such a complex organ is also unfortunately prone to diseases. Cancers (most often metastatic from other sources), infections (hepatitis) and cirrhosis (a form of fibrosis often caused by excess alcohol consumption) are just some of those which can affect the liver.