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European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 1–46 | Cite as

Effects of physical activity upon the liver

  • Roy J. Shephard
  • Nathan Johnson
Invited Review

Abstract

Purpose

To review the responses of the liver to acute and chronic physical activity and to summarize relationships between physical activity and liver health.

Methods

A systematic search of HealthStar/Ovid from 1975 through June of 2013, supplemented by articles from other sources.

Results

351 of 8,010 articles identified by HealthStar/Ovid were supplemented by 92 other papers; after focussing, the review was reduced to 435 citations. Prolonged acute exercise reduces hepatic blood flow, stimulating hepatic glycogenolysis, gluconeogenesis and synthesis of some proteins; however, lipid metabolism shows little change. Glutathione depletion suggests oxidative stress. Enzymes affecting carbohydrate metabolism are up-regulated, and lipogenic enzymes are down-regulated. The main triggers are humoral, but hepatic afferent nerves, cytokines, reactive oxygen species, and changes in hepatic blood flow may all play some role. Regular aerobic exercise training improves blood glucose control during exercise by increasing glycogen stores and up-regulating enzymes involved in gluconeogenesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Resistance to oxidant stress is generally increased by training. Lipogenic enzymes are down-regulated, and lipid metabolism is augmented. Modulations of insulin, insulin-like growth factor, glucagon and interleukin-6 may trigger the adaptive responses to training. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies show that regular exercise can reduce hepatic fat, but the effect on circulating aminotransferases is unclear and the modality and dose of physical activity optimizing health benefits need clarification.

Conclusions

Regular moderate physical activity enhances liver health. Adverse functional changes can develop if habitual activity is inadequate, and extremely prolonged competitive exercise may also be harmful, particularly under harsh environmental conditions.

Keywords

Diabetes mellitus Fatty liver Hepatic blood flow Hepatic clearance Metabolic syndrome Obesity Oxidative stress Steatosis Steato-hepatitis Ultra-marathons 

Abbreviations

ACC

Acetyl-coa carboxylase

ADP

Adenosine diphosphate

AKT

Protein kinase B

ALT

Alanine transaminase

AMP

Adenosine monophosphate

AMPK

Adenosine monophosphate kinase

ARFRP1

ADP-ribosylation factor-related protein 1

AST

Aspartate transaminase

ATP

Adenosine triphosphate

BCKDH

Branched-chain alpha-ketoacid dehydrogenase

cAMP

Cyclic adenosine monophosphate

CK

Cytokeratin

CoA

Coenzyme A

CT

Computerized tomography

DNA

Desoxyribonucleic acid

eIF2

Eukaryotic initiation factor 2

ERK

Extracellular signal-regulated kinase

FFA

Free fatty acid

GGT

Gamma glutamyl transferase

GLUT-2

Glucose-transporter-2

G protein

Guanine-nucleotide binding protein

GTP

Guanosine triphosphate

HAD

Β-hydroxyacyl-dehydrogenase

HDL-c

High-density lipoprotein cholesterol

HISS

Hepatic insulin sensitizing substance

HMG-CoA

Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA

HSP

Heat shock protein

IGF-1

Insulin-like growth factor-1

IGFBP

Insulin-like growth factor binding protein

IL

Interleukin

IMTG

Intramyocellular triglyceride

JAK

Janus kinase

JNK

c-jun N-terminal kinase

LDH

Lactate dehydrogenase

MAPK

Mitogen-activated protein kinase

MDA

Malondialdehyde

mRNA

Messenger ribonucleic acid

NAFLD

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

NF-κB

Nuclear factor kappa-B

NOx

Mononitrogen oxides

PECPK

Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase

PERK

Protein-kinase like endoplasmic reticular kinase

SCD-1

Stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1

sFasL

Soluble Fas ligand

SREBP-1c

Regulatory element-binding protein-1c

STAT

Signal transducer and activator of transcription

TRB3

Tribbles-related protein 3

VLDL

Very low density lipoprotein triglycerides

\({\dot{\text{V}}}\)O2max

Maximal oxygen intake

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating DisordersUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.BrackendaleCanada

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