The Effects of Eating Liver

Fried chicken livers in ceramic dish on wooden table
Liver provides an excellent source of protein. (Image: amberto4ka/iStock/Getty Images)

Liver is a rich source of a host of important nutrients, including folate and vitamin B-12, as well as iron. Eating liver can also expose you to some potentially dangerous effects, such as vitamin A toxicity and contact with heavy metals. Speak to your doctor or health care provider about the positive and negative effects of eating liver.

Iron

Veal Liver with Spinach
Liver is rich in iron. (Image: Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Liver is a rich course of iron, according to Linda Vorvick, M.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine. Iron is essential to the production of hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen to the cells of the body via the red blood cells. A 3-ounce serving of cooked chicken liver provides 61 percent of the daily value for iron, and the same amount of cooked beef liver provides 29 percent of the DV.

B Vitamins

Fresh salad with liver
Liver has abundant B vitamins. (Image: doupix/iStock/Getty Images)

One of the most valuable effects of eating liver is access to an abundance of B vitamins in one food source. Liver is an excellent source of the B vitamins folate and vitamin B-12. Three ounces of beef liver provides 45 percent of the DV for folate and 800 percent of the DV for vitamin B-12. Both vitamin B-12 and folate decrease blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that contributes to cardiovascular disease when elevated, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

Vitamin A Toxicity

Lambs liver meal horizontal
Vitamin A toxicity may be a concern when consuming large amounts of liver. (Image: Paul Cowan/iStock/Getty Images)

A potentially harmful effect of eating liver is vitamin A toxicity. Liver is very high in vitamin A; 3 ounces of cooked beef liver provides 444 percent of the DV for this vitamin. According to Professor Peter Aggett of the U.K.’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, eating too much liver can interfere with your bone density and contribute to fractures because of its high vitamin A content. Other effects of vitamin A toxicity include blurred vision, trouble with muscular coordination and birth defects. Seek medical advice regarding a safe weekly intake of liver, particularly if you are already taking vitamin A supplements or multivitamins containing vitamin A.

Heavy Metals

Chicken livers with apple
Choose organic grass fed liver where possible. (Image: SVETLANA KOLPAKOVA/iStock/Getty Images)

Certain heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic and lead tend to accumulate in the livers of beef cattle during their lifespan, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and these accrued toxins are then passed on to the humans who eat the livers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the livers of beef cattle can also contain pesticides and veterinary drugs. In order to minimize the harmful effects of these toxins, choose liver that comes from organic, grass fed, free range beef cattle wherever possible.

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