Scientists Say: Liver

This organ does many essential jobs in the body, such as cleaning blood and producing bile

a plastic model shows the arrangement of organs in the human torso

The liver is a reddish-brown organ located on the upper right side of the belly. In adults, the liver is about the size of a football.

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Liver (noun, “LIH-vur”)

The liver is an organ on the right side of the belly, protected by the rib cage. This organ does many important jobs. One is filtering harmful substances out of the blood. Another is making bile, a fluid that helps break down food. Still another is storing excess fat and sugar in the body. The liver is the largest internal organ. In adults, it weighs an average 1.4 kilograms (3 pounds) and is about as big as a football.

Diseases and lifestyle choices can both harm the liver. For instance, the inherited illness hemochromatosis can cause iron to build up in the organs. This can cause liver damage. Infections, such as hepatitis viruses, can also harm the liver. So can consuming too much of a toxic substance, such as alcohol. To protect your liver, it’s best to avoid drinking, smoking or consuming other drugs. A nutritious diet, regular exercise and good hygiene can also help keep this essential organ healthy.

In a sentence

Eating too much sugar can cause liver damage and other medical problems.

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Maria Temming is the Assistant Managing Editor at Science News Explores. She has bachelor's degrees in physics and English, and a master's in science writing.

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