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Having blood work done is always somewhat frightening, especially because you are not completely sure what is being tested for, or what a good or bad result looks like or means. If you are suffering from symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, swelling of your abdomen or jaundice, you can expect your physician to order a series of diagnostic tests, including a blood test called an ALT, which stands for Alanine Aminotransferase. This test is one of two primary lab tests ordered when there is a suspicion of damage to your liver.

Normal Values

Fatty liver disease is an increasingly common problem, due in large part to the obesity epidemic. The condition begins as high levels of triglycerides deposited in the cells of the liver, and unfortunately it is often not detected until a patient becomes symptomatic, and even then it usually takes a while to diagnose because the most common symptoms of the disease are also seen in so many other illnesses. Because of this, it is not uncommon for the disease to have progressed to the point where liver damage has already been done before tests can be run. One of the most common tests used in diagnosing fatty liver disease is a blood test looking for an elevated level of alanine aminotransferase, or ALT.

ALT levels in the blood are normally between zero and forty five units per liter. If the test is done and levels are higher than that, it can mean different things: levels that go as high as ten times the normal level are an indication of acute hepatitis, while levels in between can mean anything from drug use to the beginnings of liver damage due to cirrhosis. Elevated ALT markers are often the first positive indication that damage has been done. The good news is that, although nothing can be done to fix the damage, a positive diagnosis can be a potent enough warning to get you to make healthier choices about your diet. ALT levels will fall with these changes. Continued below....


The reason that alanine aminotransferase levels are usually low in the blood stream is that ALT is an enzyme that normally resides strictly within the liver, doing its job. When you have
symptoms of fatty liver disease and your doctor orders a blood test for alanine aminotransferase levels, he is looking to see whether this enzyme has spilled out into the blood stream.

The presence of ALT in the blood is one of the surest indications of liver damage, although it can also be present if there is muscle damage. Make sure that your physician knows about any injuries you've sustained or if you've needed an injection of any kind, as either can skew your results higher.


It is important to remember that just because your ALT levels are high, it may not be an indication of liver damage, and that even if there is damage, many different conditions can be reversed by adopting a healthy lifestyle or diet.

Alanine aminotransferase can simply be an indication of inflammation or mild damage rather than an actual functional problem. There are also many different medications that can raise your ALT levels, including acetaminophen and other NSAIDs, some antibiotics, and many of the cholesterol medications that are on the market today. Make sure your physician has a full record of all medications you are taking; there are also many other liver function tests available to help narrow down your results and get you on the right course of treatment.

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)