Liver: An organ in the upper abdomen that aids in digestion and removes waste products and worn-out cells from the blood. The liver is the largest solid organ in the body. The liver weighs about three and a half pounds (1.6 kilograms). It measures about 8 inches (20 cm) horizontally (across) and 6.5 inches (17 cm) vertically (down) and is 4.5 inches (12 cm) thick.
The liver has a multitude of important and complex functions.
Some of these functions are to:
- Manufacture (synthesize) proteins, including albumin (to help maintain the volume of blood) and blood clotting factors.
- Synthesize, store, and process (metabolize) fats, including fatty acids (used for energy) and cholesterol.
- Metabolize and store carbohydrates, which are used as the source for the sugar (glucose) in blood that red blood cells and the brain use.
- Form and secrete bile that contains bile acids to aid in the intestinal absorption (taking in) of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Eliminate, by metabolizing and/or secreting, the potentially harmful biochemical products produced by the body, such as bilirubin from the breakdown of old red blood cells and ammonia from the breakdown of proteins.
- Detoxify, by metabolizing and/or secreting, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins.