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Do Vegetarian Diets Promote Healthy Liver Function?

Last updated Jan. 27, 2016

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

The vegetarian diet is considered one of the best ways to ensure proper liver health and functioning. It consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds enriched with micronutrients and compounds which promote liver vitality.


Liver, the largest gland and a vital organ, plays an important role in the metabolism, production, and breakdown of several compounds in the body. Here are the major functions performed by the liver:

  • Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein
  • Storing glycogen, which is converted to glucose and provides energy for various organs
  • Synthesis of amino acids and cholesterol
  • Production of coagulation factors required for blood clotting
  • Producing bile, which is required for emulsification of dietary fat
  • Metabolism of drugs
  • Detoxification; removal of harmful toxins, carcinogens, and environmental pollutants
  • Release of angiotensin hormone, which regulates blood pressure
  • Store house of micronutrients like vitamins A, D, K, and B12

The most important function of the liver is to control nutrient metabolism and energy storage, thus diet directly influences its function. The vegetarian diet is considered one of the best ways to ensure proper liver health and functioning. It consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, and seeds enriched with micronutrients and compounds which promote liver vitality. Proteins are essential for numerous biological processes, but their metabolism creates toxins (ammonia/urea). The vegetarian diet is low in protein compared to non-vegetarian diets, thus it reduces the detoxification load of the liver.

Microorganisms produce toxins which can be harmful to the body. A vegetarian diet helps in detoxification of various toxins, free radicals, microorganisms, and carcinogens present in the body; thereby reducing toxic load on the liver and improving its functions. Consuming a strictly vegetarian diet for more than 8 weeks is suggested in liver diseases like viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver, and ascites to improve liver functions.

References:

Anatomy and Function of the Liver. Retrieved from http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=anatomy-and-function-of-the-liver-90-P03069

Dehegge, M.H. (2010). Nutrition and gastrointestinal disease. In : Feldman, M., Friedman, L.S., Brandt, L.J., eds. Sieisegner and Fordtran’s gastrointestinal and liver disease .9th ed. Philadelphia; PA: Saunders Elsevier. Retrieved from http://www.springer.com/us/book/9781588298089

Evert, A. (2014 Feb 18). Vitamin B12. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002403.htm

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Jan. 27, 2016
Last updated: Jan. 27, 2016