The liver is the largest organ in the body and is located directly below the diaphragm. It is a multilobular organ, but can be grossly divided into right and left regions. It has several important functions, only one of which is related to digestion. However, several of these functions merit mentioning. They are:
- heparin production which helps prevent blood from clotting in the vessels,
- removal of dead and malfunctioning red blood cells from the circulatory System,
- removal of toxins from the blood.
- storage of absorbed nutrients,
- storage of trace metals (copper and iron) and vitamins (A,D,E, and K) which are necessary for daily metabolic activity, and
- production of bile which aids in the digestion of fats.
Bile, yellow to green in color, is produced by hepatic cells from cholesterol. It is composed of bile salts, bile acids, lipids, and the pigments biliverdin and bilirubin. These pigments are products of red blood cell degradation and must be removed from the circulatory system. If they cannot be removed, the body will develop a pale yellowish tinge to its skin, a condition known as jaundice. Besides its excretory properties, bile is responsible for the emulsification of fats and the partial neutralization of chyme. Fatty acids and glycerol can only be absorbed in the presence of bile salts. Attached to the underside of the liver is the gall bladder, within which excess bile is stored.