From Day To Night, Your Liver Grows And Shrinks A Lot

Brilliance | Dec. 10, 2017

The brain and the heart get a lot of attention, but we think the liver deserves way more time in the spotlight. This organ keeps your sugar levels constant, stores and releases vitamins and minerals into your body as needed, detoxifies your blood, and has a remarkable ability to regenerate. But a May 2017 study uncovered another fascinating feature: it grows by day, and shrinks by night. And that's more than just a cool trick.

Does This Make My Liver Look Big?

Researchers from the Université de Genève published a study in the journal Cell that basically confirms the liver is more powerful than we thought. They studied the livers of mice and saw that their livers grew by nearly half during waking hours (which, for mice, is night), and shrunk back down to "normal" size at mousey bedtime. As ScienceDaily reports, the number of ribosomes (the organelles that produce the proteins required for various liver functions) fluctuates with the size of the cell. Not only does it get big, the liver works better bigger, too.

It's Past Your Bedtime, Mister

The study found that the livers of mice that were active and feeding during their usual times (nighttime) reached peak efficiency and size. Weirdly, when the researchers forced the poor mice to flip-flop their schedule so they were eating and being active during the day, the fluctuation of their liver sizes stopped. That's the bottom line here: The liver seems to be synced up with the body's circadian rhythm.

We have reason to believe the same liver size shifting happens in humans too, not just mice. So, what does this mean for you and your liver? Your sleeping habits—which, no judgement, are probably not perfect—are keeping your liver from functioning the best it can. Add this to the list of why regular, full nights of sleep are so. Very. Important.

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