Anabolic Steroids, Liver Function and AST and ALT Blood Test

Blood Tests For Determining Liver Function

Liver function is very important for bio-transformation, i.e. transformation of substances that enter our body (medicines or toxins) into forms that ware not harmful for our systems. These substances can be transformed in liver into less toxic or water-soluble substances that will be easier to get excreted through kidneys or pancreas from our body. However, bio-transformation of alcohol, medicines and other toxins leaves damage on liver.

During process itself toxic metabolites are produced, most often free radicals (O2, HOO) that are highly reactive and quickly cause peroxidation of lipids, most often lipids of cell membrane, which causes damage and death of liver cells.

Liver has numerous enzymes it releases into blood when liver is damaged, such as AST and ALT. These enzymes reach maximum value in blood when acute liver damage occurs.

Blood tests serve to determine or confirm liver damage/illness, i.e. to evaluate existence and severity of liver cell damage, or the cholestasis, in case when illness attacks pancreas cells.


AST and ALT are liver enzymes that indicate liver (cells) damage. Their value rises proportionally to liver damage, i.e. the higher value of these enzymes-the higher liver damage. They can indicate different types of health issues, but most often their value indicates intoxication with medicines (such as steroids, some antibiotics, pain-killers) or alcohol.

What is AST?

AST or Aspartate transaminase; Serum glutamic- oxaloacetic transaminase is a liver enzyme that is usually tested in blood to determine and follow liver cell damage. AST is present in:

  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Skeletal muscles
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Lungs
  • Spleen
  • Red blood cells

In blood is usually present in low concentration. When cells are damaged, AST is released in blood in larger volume. In order to determine liver cell damage, AST is usually tested with ALT, because ALT is more specific and will be present in blood in elevated value only when liver cells are damaged. AST can indicate other illnesses beside liver cell damage. Therefore, sole AST testing for liver cell damage is limited.

Increased AST values can indicate:

  • Acute myocardium disease
  • Muscle damage
  • Muscle illness (progressive muscle dystrophy, dermatomiosys)
  • Acute liver damage (in virus hepatitis, cyrosis)

It has been determined that after intensive work out, AST values can triple. In this case, testing should be repeated after period of rest to determine is there an actual liver damage. With acute liver damage, levels of AST and Alt ca increase up to 100 times above referent value.

Reference value of AST is 8 to 38 U/L.

What is ALT?

ALT or serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase (SGPT) or alanine aminotransferase is enzyme that is primarily present in liver and kidneys, but can also be located in heart and muscles.

In blood is present in low values. Its value will increase in blood after cell damage.ALT testing is done to discover and track liver cell damage, and is usually tested along with AST. Reference value of ALT is 10 to 48 U/L..

Liver Damage or Not

Liver has excellent regeneration ability, and can perform its function effectively with only half of liver tissue healthy. However, liver illnesses often don’t express symptoms until its’ too late.Liver damage can be acute or chronic, and in case when its’ acute it usually has limited effect and liver will recover quickly, with appropriate health treatment.

It also has to be mentioned that in some cases, blood tests that show elevated values of AST or ALT will show normal values after being repeated, which indicated that blood tests for liver damage are only indicator of possible problem, and can’t be taken into account solely, without additional testing.


Generally, it has to be said that AST and ALT blood tests have limited ability to determine liver damage. Elevated value of AST and ALT will be only a starting point for further testing to confirm possible liver damage, and to determine appropriate therapy for treatment of liver damage. Anabolic steroids can cause liver damage in taken inappropriately, in which case treatment will be necessary to enable liver regeneration.

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