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Difference Between Liver and Kidney Function

Liver function includes the activities performed by the liver to maintain homeostasis in the body. Kidney function encompasses activities of the kidney that keep the body in balance.

What is Liver function?


Liver function is how well the liver is performing all the roles that are important in the human body to maintain balance (homeostasis).

Secretions and synthesis:

One of the important functions of the liver is the secretion of bile from the hepatocytes. The bile is stored in the gall bladder, which contracts to squirt bile into the small intestine; the bile is needed for fat digestion. The protein albumin and most of the blood clotting factors and other plasma proteins are produced by the liver.

Storage and metabolism:

The liver is a site of storage of certain vitamins called fat-soluble vitamins. These include the vitamins A, D, and E. The liver also helps metabolize vitamins. A further function of the liver is that it also stores copper, iron, and glycogen. Glycogen is how glucose is stored in the human body, and this can be converted back into glucose during times of starvation.


Some substances are reabsorbed by the liver; for instance, some bile acids that are not used in the small intestine or excreted from the body, are recycled back to the liver via what is called the enterohepatic circulation.

Excretion and detoxification:

The detoxification of toxins is an essential function of the liver. It is the Kupffer cells of the liver that perform this detoxification role. These are immune system cells that help the liver to detoxify substances. Bile does help excrete some substances. For instance, the liver breaks down the iron component of blood known as heme. This is then converted to bilirubin which becomes a part of the bile. Alcohol is converted in the liver through a series of steps into a less toxic product. Ammonia produced during metabolism of amino acids, is converted into urea in the liver.

Tests of liver function:

Blood tests can be done to measure levels of liver enzymes. The liver enzymes that are measured include the following: aspartate transaminase (AST), alkaline phosphatase, and alanine transaminase (ALT). Bilirubin is also measured. Abnormal levels of these various substances may indicate liver damage but sometimes abnormal enzyme levels are due to other organs that are damaged, such as the heart. Ultrasound, CT scans, MRI scans, and liver biopsies can also indicate if there is liver damage that is affecting how the organ is functioning.

What is Kidney function?


Kidney function describes the processes that take place in the kidney to ensure the body stays healthy.

Secretions and synthesis:

The kidneys secrete erythropoietin, a hormone that activates erythrocyte (red blood cell) production in the bone marrow. The hormonally-active substance calcitrol is formed in the kidneys. The calcitrol is made by conversion of some types of vitamin D. Calcitrol helps the body absorb more phosphorous and calcium, which helps keep bones strong and healthy.

Storage and metabolism:

The kidney does not store substances but does play a role in metabolism by helping regulate the water balance of the body, pH of the blood. It also functions to remove metabolic wastes.


Substances that are reabsorbed in the kidney include glucose, water, and solutes. Some of the reabsorption helps regulate blood pressure. For example, if your blood pressure is low, the kidney tubules will reabsorb more water to try to raise the pressure.

Excretion and detoxification:

The kidneys secrete urea, which is a waste product. Several drugs also pass through the kidney by passing through the part known as the glomerulus. Some drugs are also secreted into the tubes of the nephron for excretion.

Tests of kidney function:

The kidney’s function can be assessed by a urine albumin-creatinine ratio (uACR) completed on a urine sample. The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is another test of function; this is measured by a blood test.

Difference between Liver and Kidney function?


Liver function describes the purpose and activities of the liver in the body. Kidney function describes the purpose of the kidney in the body.

Storage functions

The liver stores fat-soluble vitamins and glycogen. The kidney does not store substances.


The liver synthesizes proteins and bile. The kidneys synthesize calcitrol and erythropoietin.


Detoxification in the liver is by Kuppfer cells. Detoxification in the kidney is by glomerular filtration.

Nutrient/mineral reabsorption

Bile is reabsorbed by the liver. Water, ions, and glucose are all reabsorbed by the kidney.

Table comparing Liver and Kidney function

Summary of Liver and Kidney function

  • Both the liver and kidney are important organs that help in excreting toxins.
  • The liver is also important in producing blood clotting factors.
  • The kidney helps regulate blood pressure and electrolyte balance in the body.


What’s more important liver or kidney?

Both organs are equally important but one advantage with kidneys is that most people have two, so they can survive if they lose one while there is only one liver.

Do the kidneys and liver work together?

Yes, both organs work to maintain homeostasis and help to regulate the sodium and calcium balance in the body. The liver also produces the toxic byproduct urea which is excreted via the kidneys.

How do kidneys and liver function similar?

Both are organs that help with excretion of substances and reabsorption of substances.

What are the signs of liver and kidney problems?

The signs may vary but, in both cases, people experience fatigue. There may also be pain in the abdomen and certain parts of the body may become swollen.

What are the first signs of a bad liver?

Some of the first signs of a bad liver are jaundice and abdominal swelling.

How do I know if my liver is bad?

There may be symptoms like jaundice but, only a doctor can diagnose a liver problem.

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References :

[0]Encyclopedia Britannica. “Liver”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/science/liver

[1]Hundt, M., H. Basit, and S. John. "Physiology, Bile Secretion.[Updated 2022 Sep 26]." StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing (2022).

[2]Preminger, Greg. M. “Kidneys”. Merckmanuals. Merck & Co., 2022, https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/kidney-and-urinary-tract-disorders/biology-of-the-kidneys-and-urinary-tract/kidneys

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAFgF4TiLsg-kidney-function-test-concept-image/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAFgFzUkO5w-liver-function-test-conceptual-image/

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