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What Does the Liver Do With Amino Acids?

By James Rada, Jr. ; Updated July 27, 2017

Why the Liver is Important

The liver performs more than 500 vital functions in the body, according to the University of Virginia Health System. The most important function is maintaining a healthy metabolism. The liver also regulates chemical levels in the blood, excretes bile to help breakdown fats and processes all of the blood in your body. This makes it an important part of maintaining a healthy body. Some of the liver's functions involve amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

How the Liver Uses Different Amino Acids

As proteins break down to their component amino acids during times of fasting, starvation and intense exercise, the liver can convert those amino acids (except for leucine and lysine) into glucose through gluconegenesis. The body can then use the glucose for energy.

Amino acids can have many functions, but here are how specific amino acids function within the liver: • The amino acid arginine contributes to liver lipid metabolism. It also neutralizes ammonia. This function helps detoxify the liver and allow it to regenerate. • Citrulline detoxifies ammonia and functions primarily in the liver. • The liver manufactures glutathione using the three amino acids -- cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. A deficiency of glutathione can cause loss of coordination, tremors and mental problems. • Methionine increases production of lechithin in the liver, which helps lower cholesterol levels. • Serine stores glucose produced in the liver. • Threonine prevents fat build-up in the liver.

Cautions with Amino Acids and the Liver

Consuming too much protein is dangerous for people with liver disease. If you have a liver condition, don't supplement your protein intake. This will make your kidneys and proteins work overtime to get rid of the excess. This caution extends to amino acid supplementation. The supplements are often more than the body needs and you can get too much of a good thing if you have liver problems. Do not use amino acid supplements if you have liver problems.

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