Among every organ, it seems that value is greatly emphasized only on the brain and the heart: the brain regulates the functions of our body, both internal and external while the heart is the main organ through which life, in this case, the blood flows. The value of the liver, however, despite its very active role, is understated.
The liver is part of the human body’s digestive system and most of its functions, although not mainly regulating as with the brain, involve the processing of metabolic processes. And without proper functioning of which, the brain, the heart, and all the systems will not function as effectively, or worse, may eventually stop.
It is the liver that receives all the nutrients taken in the body. In this organ, all these nutrients are processed to be delivered and used by the different organs in our body. It must be remembered that the body has a certain currency (ATP) which’s only form can be used for energy. Whether a body takes in carbohydrates, protein, fat, drugs or alcohol, the liver converts these first to something that can be utilized by the body without regard to whether it be harmful or not to itself. Without this conversion, the body won’t be able to use whatever food or energy is taken inside the body.
Take for example, carbohydrates. There are many forms of carbohydrates but among all forms, the body only needs glucose to make energy. It is in the liver where the other forms of carbohydrates such as fructose which is usually found in fruits, and galactose which is usually found in milk, are converted to glucose, which would then be converted to energy. Still, if the body is not in need of much energy, it must find a way to store the excess glucose. It is also in the liver where the excess glucose linked to each other in order to make its storage form, the glycogen. If the amount of glucose is still greater than the amount of glycogen that the body can store, the liver will then convert it to fat for future long-term energy needs.
It is also in the liver where these stored forms of energy, glycogen and fat, are converted to its active form of energy: It breaks down glycogen to glucose, the glycerol portion of fat to glucose, some proteins to glucose, and then glucose to the needed energy by the body. It is also the only organ that is able to convert the fatty acids in the body to energy. In parts of the body where fatty acids cannot be used as energy, a lack of glucose or glucose source may mean a necessity for the conversion of fat components to ketone bodies. These can only be done in the liver.
Creating new cells and hormones are very critical in the human body. In making these, the body needs adequate supply of tryglycerides, phospholipids and even cholesterol (“Liver”; Matthew, et. al., 315-359). It is only in the liver where these components are made. Extra lipids or fats in the lipoproteins are also packaged in the liver for transport to the different parts of the human body (Whitney, et. al., 208). It is also in the liver where bile is manufactured (Vander, et. al., 554-558). Bile is necessary during fat digestion because without which, fat cannot be converted to its molecular forms.
The functions of the liver also include the manufacturing of amino acids that the body need in order to create new cells and build the body (Whitney, et. al., 208). These amino acids are also necessary to maintain the body’s immune system. When these amino acids are excessive, however, its ammonia component can be very toxic. It is the liver that removes this toxic part so that the amino acids can be converted to other useful forms (Matthew, et. al., 746-790). When ammonia is present in the blood, it is the liver’s job to remove these so that it can be excreted through the kidneys (Vander, et. al., 554-558). Regeneration of cells will also be impossible without the liver because the liver is the organ that makes the nitrogenous compounds that the body needs for the DNA and RNA (Matthew, et. al., 794-820). This, and the its function in creating clotting factors would make the liver necessary especially when a person has wounds.
Other functions of the liver involve alcohols and storage of most vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamins A, D, E and K. Its function in alcohols includes detoxification. The liver not only detoxifies alcohol but also drugs when it enters the body and prepares it for excretion (Whitney, et. al., 208).
“Liver.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 25 Feb 2007, 13:50 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 Feb 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Liver&oldid=110825242>.
Matthews, Van Holde and Ahern. Biochemistry. 3rd ed. Singapore: Pearson Education. 2002.
Vander, Sherman and Luciano. Human Physiology: The Mechanism of Body Function. 8th ed. Singapore: McGrawhill. 2001.
Whitney, Cataldo and Rolfes. Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. USA: Wadsworth, 2002.