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The Liver And Cholesterol: What You Need To Know

The Liver And Cholesterol: What You Need To Know

Keeping your cholesterol levels in balance is important for your health.

The liver is the largest gland in the body and is located in the upper right corner of the abdomen. It is a master at detoxifying drugs and foreign substances from the body. It stores glycogen, which serves as a source of energy for the body. It is also important for the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. A healthy liver does all of this without being noticed.

An important function of the liver is the production and elimination of cholesterol. The most attention is paid to cholesterol, which explains its potential negative impact on health. However, cholesterol is necessary for the production of hormones, vitamin D and enzymes needed for digestion.

Beams of light called lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout the body. The two most important types are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). The terms “high” and “low” refer to the relative proportions of protein and fat in a batch. The body needs both types, in controlled proportions.

Healthy cholesterol levels in the body

It is important to know the levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol), LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol in your body. Total cholesterol is measured as HDL + LDL + one-fifth of a third type of fat, called triglycerides.

The levels recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Credible Source are listed below.

The HDL level in the blood is at least 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Anything below this level increases the risk of heart disease. A level of at least 60 mg/dL helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

Complications of liver function

Complications of liver function can interfere with the organ’s ability to produce or eliminate cholesterol. All can lead to a spike in cholesterol and affect a person’s health. The following conditions can affect the liver and cause abnormal cholesterol levels

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common form of liver dysfunction. It affects about a quarter of the population. It is more common in people who are overweight or diabetic.

NAFLD is associated with dyslipidemia, abnormal cholesterol levels, and similar compounds in the blood. NAFLD can also lead to Lipodystrophy, irregularities in the way the body distributes fat.

NAFLD includes the more severe form of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and a diagnosis of NASH often leads to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

Cirrhosis of the liver

Cirrhosis causes scarring and the inability of the liver to perform basic metabolic functions. This is a reaction that can cause long-term damage to the organ. Damage can include inflammation caused by diseases such as hepatitis C. Following hepatitis C, chronic alcohol abuse is the leading cause of cirrhosis in the United States.


Another important cause of liver damage is the alteration of drugs. The liver’s job is to metabolize chemicals in the body. This makes it vulnerable to damage from prescription, over-the-counter and recreational drugs.

Common drugs and drug-induced liver damage associated with these conditions include the following

Acute hepatitis

Related drugs.

  • Acetaminophen
  • Bromfenac
  • Isoniazid
  • Nevirapine
  • Ritonavir
  • Troglitazone

Chronic hepatitis

Related Drugs

  • Dantrolene
  • Diclofenac
  • Medopa
  • Minocycline
  • Nitrofurantoin

Effects of high cholesterol levels

High LDL cholesterol levels increase the risk of fatty deposits in the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart; low HDL cholesterol levels indicate that the body is unable to remove plaque and other fatty deposits. Both of these factors contribute to the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Can liver disease cause high cholesterol levels?

There are many different types of liver disease.

Hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are among the most common liver diseases.

Liver disease can damage the liver and prevent it from working properly.

One of the functions of the liver is to break down cholesterol. When the liver is not working properly, it can cause cholesterol to build up in the body.

What effect does cholesterol have on the liver?

If there is too much cholesterol in the diet, it can create fat around the liver. This can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver, which causes long-term damage to the liver.

NAFLD can increase your risk of health problems such as stroke and diabetes. If detected and treated early, the condition can often be prevented from getting worse.

People can also reduce the amount of fat in their liver in the early stages.

When to see a doctor

Liver damage can develop for months or years without symptoms. When symptoms appear, liver damage is often extensive. Some symptoms may require medical attention. These may include the following

  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • ascites
  • susceptibility to injury


Your doctor may diagnose liver problems by examining your symptoms and taking a medical history. You may also have liver function tests. These tests may include the following

Liver enzyme tests: The common enzymes in this group are alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase. Elevated levels of any of these enzymes may indicate damage.

Liver protein tests: Low levels of globulin and albumin may indicate impaired liver function. Thrombin is a protein in the liver that is needed to clot blood. A common test is to measure the time it takes for the blood to clot. A slow clotting time means a lack of prothrombin, which may indicate liver damage.

Bilirubin test: The blood carries bilirubin to the liver and gallbladder. It is then excreted from the body in the stool. Blood in the urine or excess bilirubin in the blood may indicate liver damage.

Single lipoprotein panel: Blood is tested for cholesterol and triglycerides together. Blood is usually drawn after fasting.


Treatment of liver disease often begins with treatment of the underlying disease. Depending on the condition of the liver, certain dietary changes may be necessary, but the American Liver Foundation offers general recommendations.

What to eat

  • Eat grains, fruits, vegetables, meats and legumes, milk, and oils in proportion to each other. Foods high in fiber are essential.
  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated.


  • Fatty and salty
  • Raw foods
  • Alcohol

Treatment for high cholesterol may include dietary treatments for liver disease and other disorders. In addition, treatment for high cholesterol often includes a class of drugs called statins. Researchers are trying to find out if statins are safe for people with liver disease.


The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Credible Source recommends diet and lifestyle changes to control high blood cholesterol levels.

Bernstein suggests that these lifestyle recommendations are good advice for anyone trying to control cholesterol, including those who face the added challenge of potential liver disease.


Therapeutic interventions are expected to be more effective in controlling cholesterol, even in people with liver disease. However, lifestyle changes and dietary control remain important and effective components of a comprehensive cholesterol control approach that includes the liver.