The liver is the second largest, and one of the most important organs in the body. It is known to have over 500 different jobs, supporting the body by regulating the chemical levels, flushing out the blood of toxins, producing cholesterol, and producing certain proteins for blood plasma—to name a few. The liver supports many of the other organs in the body as well.
So what happens when the cells of the liver are damaged or inflamed? Certain chemicals, including liver enzymes alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST), may leak higher than normal amounts into the bloodstream, raising red flags on a routine blood test. There are many different reasons you may have elevated liver enzymes show up on your blood test.
1) Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is the most common reason a person might find elevated levels of ALT and AST in their blood test. NAFLD is a liver disease that affects people who do not consume a lot of alcohol. It is marked by too much fat stored in liver cells. A healthy liver has only 5-10 percent weight in fat—a liver with higher fat content is considered a fatty liver (steatosis). Currently, NAFLD affects 25-30% of the population in the Americas.
In severe cases, NAFLD can cause the liver to swell (steatohepatitis) which can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), raising the risk of liver cancer or liver failure.
Increased risk factors for fatty liver include obesity, rapid weight loss, and type 2 diabetes.