What Is Albumin?

Albumin is a protein which is made in the liver and is a good indicator of liver damage. Albumin is the most abundant protein found in the blood.[1] It also has important functional roles such as the transportation of hormones and drugs.

What Role Does It Play in The Body?

Albumin plays several roles in the human body. The concentration of circulating albumin in the blood is directly associated with liver health as well as nutritional status. If the amount of circulating albumin is low, then this can be an indication of liver or renal damage.

Low albumin levels (AKA hypoalbuminemia) can also be a sign of malnutrition. The process of eating stimulates the production of albumin in the liver and keeps the amount of albumin in the blood at a regular level. However, malnutrition or individuals consuming a low protein diet may present with low levels.[2]

Albumin levels can also affect calcium and other protein bound biomarker levels. In the blood, calcium is bound to proteins, mainly albumin. Therefore, if the albumin concentration is low then this can also reduce the total calcium concentration too but not the bioactive calcium. This is why an adjusted calcium is usually reported.[3]  There is some controversy between low albumin levels and the risk of osteoporosis. However, some scientific studies state that low albumin levels can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis particularly at the neck of femur (long thigh bone), hip and spine.[4]

Albumin level will rise is the body is dehydrated.

How Does Albumin Affect My Wellbeing?

High albumin levels can be seen during periods of dehydration. Dehydration is where your body loses more fluid than you are putting in it. Although thirst is a symptom, other symptoms can make you feel quite unwell including fatigue, feeling dizzy, dry mouth, lips and tongue.[5] Dehydration can also influence your mental status, too. This is also true if you are malnourished. In which case, your energy levels will be low, and you may not have the desire to carry out your usual daily activities.

A low albumin level could be indicative of liver disease. Liver injury or disease such as hepatitis can also affect your general wellbeing.

How Can I Improve My Result?

Low albumin levels can be an indicator of problems with the liver and kidneys or any acute inflammatory condition. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Inflammation can occur from infection and so treatment may be required from your doctor.

If your levels are high you should ensure that you stay well hydrated.

Diet

If your levels are high you should increase your intake of protein. Good sources are beef, pork, lamb, seafood, dairy products and soya. You should also ensure you are getting a good amount of dietary fibre in your diet particularly fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.

You should always make sure you are well hydrated. That doesn’t mean you should only drink water, fluids can include squash, tea, coffee and fruit juice.

Exercise

There is evidence that there are significant benefits of regular exercise on overall fitness, the cardiovascular system, health-related quality of life and nutritional parameters, particularly in those with kidney disease.[6]

However, exercise has major benefits for our wellbeing too. Exercise can help to reduce the symptoms of depression, self-esteem and anxiety.

We should all aim for around 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Activities may include jogging, walking, swimming, cycling, exercise classes, sports matches or tennis.

 


[1] Ashok Kumar, P and Subramanian, K. (2016). The Role of Ischaemia Modified Albumin as a Biomarker in Patients with Chronic Liver Disease. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: 10(3), pp BC09-BC12.

[2] Kuwahata, M., Hasegawa, M and Kido, Y. (2017). An Oxidized/Reduced State of Plasma Albumin Reflects Malnutrition Due to an Insufficient Diet in Rats. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: 60(1), pp 70-75.

[3] Goltzman, D. (2016). Diagnostic Approach to Hypocalcemia. Available at: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/diagnostic-approach-to-hypocalcemia

[4] Afshinnia, F., Wong, K, K and Pennathur, S. (2016). Hypoalbuminemia and Osteoporosis: Reappraisal of a Controversy. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism: 101(1), pp 167-175.

[5] National Health Service. (2017). Dehydration. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dehydration/

[6] Heiwe, S and Jacobson, S, H (2011). Exercise Training for Adults with Chronic Kidney Disease (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: 10.