What Is the Function of the Liver?

The primary functions of the liver are to process nutrients from food, produce bile to aid in digesting food, filter toxins and waste from the bloodstream, and produce proteins. The liver is the heaviest organ in the body and one of the largest.

After food is broken down in the digestive system, nutrients travel by blood through the liver where it is either turned into stored energy for quick use or made into chemicals the body needs. Bile is made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. It helps digest particularly fatty food. The liver also removes old cells, drugs and hormones from the bloodstream. Among the proteins the liver produces, it manufactures several responsible for blood clotting.

Further functions of the liver include storing vitamins and iron, storing glucose, converting sugar when bodily glucose levels drop, breaking down hemoglobin and processing insulin, converting ammonia to urea (which expels extra nitrogen through urine), and destroying worn-out red blood cells, states Healthline. Of these, processing sugar and insulin is perhaps the second most critical function to detoxification.

The liver is a storehouse for sugar between meals, explains the University of California, San Francisco. It also allows for the compound to be converted to glucose when a surge of energy is needed. This is achieved through glycogenolysis (the process of turning glycogen to glucose) or through gluconeogenesis (harvesting amino acids, waste, and fat). Insulin levels are regulated to allow for sugar storage at meal times.