Liver Function Tests: Decoding the Results
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Your healthcare provider uses blood tests to measure your liver function.
The results of your liver function tests can give your doctor insight into how your liver is functioning and help them monitor changes in your liver from year to year.
Understanding your liver function can help you appreciate your liver health and support it with diet, exercise, and a supplement like fatty15.
Every year, your doctor likely orders a routine blood panel during your physical. In addition to checking your cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and blood sugar, they’ll also be monitoring your liver function.
The liver is an organ with over 500 identifiable functions, and blood tests can help your doctor understand how well the liver is doing its job and determine if further tests are needed to rule out liver disease. If you have liver disease, liver function tests can help them determine if your condition is worsening or if your liver is maintaining its function as expected.
Understanding the importance of these tests and how they work can help you understand the health and condition of your liver better. We’ll explain some of the most common tests and tell you how you can support your liver if your goal is better test results.
What Are Liver Function Tests?
There are numerous ways your doctor can measure your liver function. By measuring the clearance of bilirubin (a blood byproduct), certain liver enzymes, and protein levels, your doctor (and you) can learn a lot about what’s going on in your liver.
One of the enzymes a blood test will check is your alanine transaminase (sometimes referred to as alanine aminotransferase), which helps your liver use protein to create the energy needed by your liver cells to carry out specific hepatic functions.
If there is ALT in your blood, it could be a sign that you have liver damage. ALT is released into the bloodstream when liver damage occurs, so your doctor will check to see if you have ALT in your bloodstream.
Another enzyme that the liver uses is alkaline phosphatase. This enzyme helps break down proteins, which the liver then uses for energy.
If you have a higher-than-normal level of these proteins, it could indicate liver damage, but not always. It can also mean you have a biliary issue (an issue with a bile duct). This duct carries bile away from the liver. If you have certain bone diseases, you may have higher levels of this enzyme.
Aspartate transaminase or aspartate aminotransferase helps break down amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. There is always a small amount of AST in the blood, similar to ALT, but if you have a higher amount in your blood than is considered normal, it could indicate liver damage.
4. Albumin and Total Protein
Your liver plays a role in your immunity by removing bacteria from the blood it filters. One way it performs this function is through the production of albumin.
This protein is used to help the body fight infection. It’s also important for helping keep your blood inside your blood vessels and plays a role in carrying hormones throughout the body.
Unlike AST, ALP, or ALT, your doctor checks for lower levels of this protein. If a low level of albumin is detected, it could indicate liver damage, but it could also be related to other gastrointestinal issues. Your doctor will likely order further testing to determine what is causing your levels to be lower than normal.
Gamma-glutamyltransferase, also known as gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, is yet another liver enzyme that a routine blood test will check. A higher-than-normal level of GGT in the blood can indicate an issue with your liver’s bile duct.
This test isn't specific to the liver and can indicate an issue with other organs. If your GGT levels come back high, your doctor will order additional tests.
Red blood cells break down when they lose their function and produce a waste product called bilirubin. This compound is filtered by the liver and excreted in stool. If your bilirubin levels are high, it might indicate blocked ducts or liver damage.
7. LDH Test
L-lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) is a liver enzyme that helps break down sugar (glucose) into energy that is usable by liver cells. While there are certain conditions that lead to high levels of LDH, it could be indicative of liver damage.
Prothrombin time (PT) is the time it takes your blood to clot. When your blood takes longer to clot than normal, it could indicate liver damage.
Don’t worry — the test to measure how quickly your blood clots doesn’t involve an in-office paper cut. PT is measured as part of your routine blood sample. In the lab, calcium and thromboplastin are added to a small sample of your blood to measure how long it takes a clot to form.
A longer PT time doesn’t always indicate liver damage. It can happen as a side effect of taking blood-thinning medications or from other health issues.
What If My Test Comes Back Abnormal?
It can be frightening to receive the phone call that your healthcare provider wants to talk to you about your laboratory tests. Keep in mind that abnormal liver function tests don’t necessarily mean you have liver disease. What it does mean is that your doctor will likely want to order more diagnostic testing.
Your doctor will want additional tests if your liver function test results are abnormal. In addition to collecting your family history and possibly giving you a physical examination, your doctor may order an MRI or a CT Scan. If liver injury or damage is suspected, they may also want you to have a liver biopsy.
A biopsy can help determine if you have severe liver damage, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
Keeping Your Liver Healthy
No one wants bad lab tests, and keeping your liver enzymes within a normal range is possible for most adults who don’t have an underlying illness or genetic condition that predisposes them to compromised liver function.
In addition to maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol, you should also consider being vaccinated against viral hepatitis, which can lead to liver damage and scarring. Vaccinations are available for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Hepatitis C is curable with medication in most people.
Another way to support your liver is by taking a liver-supportive supplement.
Pentadecanoic Acid and Your Liver
Many supplements claim to take care of your liver, but one supplement has the backing of a growing body of scientific evidence that supports liver health and much more. That supplement is fatty15, the first and only supplement to contain the pure, vegan-friendly version of pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0.
What Is C15:0?
C15:0 is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that is essential, which means our bodies need it to thrive but cannot readily make it on their own. C15:0 supports liver and total body health at the cellular level.
By integrating into your cells, C15:0:
- Keeps cell membranes strong. C15:0 strengthens weak cell membranes so your cells don’t lose their shape and their function. Studies show that C15:0 strengthens cell membranes by up to 80%.
- Activating AMPK. AMPK is an important molecule in the body. It removes damaged cells that have lost their function and lead to unhealthy levels of inflammation, and helps regulate immunity and glucose uptake. By activating AMPK, C15:0 helps support these functions and restore balance.
- Calms and lowers proinflammatory cytokines, which have been identified as a key driver in aging.
- Repairing and restoring failing mitochondria. C15:0 helps repair and restore mitochondria that lose their function and helps them increase ATP levels by up to 350%. Simultaneously, they help reduce the production of reactive oxygen species, which can be damaging to cells, by up to 45%.
- Activating PPARɑ and PPARẟ receptors. These receptors are located all over our bodies, and they help regulate functions like sleep, appetite, and even mood. By activating them, C15:0 can help improve mood, deepen sleep, and even help you regulate your appetite.
C15:0 is a healthy fat that benefits the liver and your entire body, but you may not currently be getting enough in your diet.
Getting Your C15:0
C15:0 is found primarily in whole dairy products like whole-fat milk and full-fat butter. However, increasing your intake of these foods may not be the ideal solution for a few reasons.
First, while the good C15:0 fatty acid is present in whole-fat dairy products in trace levels, there are much higher levels of “bad” even-chain saturated fatty acids that continue to be associated with poorer health. That is probably why studies evaluating the effects of milk on our health are mixed (some say dairy fat is bad for us, while others say it is good for us). Fatty15 provides just the good fat without the bad fats.
Second, getting C15:0 in your diet through whole milk and butter involves, well, cows. That makes it less sustainable and definitely takes it off the table for vegans and people who are conscious of the involvement of animals in their products. The FA15™ contained in fatty15 is completely animal-free and sustainable, so you never have to worry about animal involvement.
Lastly, C15:0 is attached to branches of lipids called triacylglycerides, aka triglycerides. That means our gut has to use digestive enzymes to break down these triacylglycerides to release C15:0 as a free fatty acid.
Once C15:0 is released, it is ready to be absorbed. These multiple steps can make our absorption of C15:0 from foods less efficient. In contrast, FA15™ in fatty15 is our proprietary, award-winning, pure powder C15:0 ingredient already in free fatty acid form, readily absorbable by your body.
By taking fatty15, you get all the benefits of C15:0 in a supplement that your body can readily absorb, and you also get to skip the calories and the cows.
Take Your Liver Health to the Next Level
Your liver function tests don’t have to be a source of bad news every year. This year, take steps to get back better results. Even if you have a diagnosis of liver damage or fatty liver disease, you can manage your illness with lifestyle changes and healthier living.
Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of exercise are often the first lines of defense against certain liver diseases. These changes also lead to an overall healthier existence. In addition, you can take a natural supplement that helps meet your body’s needs on a cellular level.
Fatty15 is the supplement that helps you restore your body’s circulating levels of C15:0 without adding excess calories or involving cattle. It’s easy to support your body when you take once-a-day fatty15.
Go ahead. Take action to improve your liver health and impress your doctor. Fatty15 is the solution for keeping your liver healthy and supporting total body wellness.
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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