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Digestive Disorders

A high protein diet and liver function

08/31/2007

Question:

Are moderately elevated liver function tests (repeatedly drawn one day after exercise) in a 23 year old male in apparent great health a cause for long-term concern? He eats a healthy but about 200 grams of protein daily and alternates moderate and strenous aerobic and weight lifting on most days.

Answer:

This is a very good question. It would not be unusual to have MILD elevations in the LFTs (Liver Function Enzymes, also called liver function tests) after exercise. Whereas one of the LFTs (ALT) is localized predominately in the liver, the other most common LFT (the AST) is present in a variety of tissues, including skeletal muscle. Thus, if you exercised vigorously, damaging some muscle, it would not be unreasonable to see a "leak" of enzyme (ie AST) detected in the blood stream. Indeed, a paper published in 1999, in which marathon runners were evaluated, showed some significant temporary elevations in the liver enzymes.

If this is of continued concern to you, it would be logical to stay away from your exercise regimen for say a week, and have your blood drawn. If these mild elevations in liver enzymes are due to your robust exercise, I would anticipate that your elevations would normalize.

I hope this answers your question. Without knowing more, I am pretty convinced that the nature of the exercise itself is the cause of these elevations. If, after a reasonable time period off of exercise, repeat tests continue to show moderate elevations, that may warrant further work-up.

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Response by:

Steven  M Rudich, MD, PhD, FACS Steven M Rudich, MD, PhD, FACS
Formerly
Professor of Surgery, Director of Liver Transplat and Hepatobiliary Surgery
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati