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Made in the liver, albumin is the most plentiful protein in the body and is a good indicator of liver and kidney health.

Author: Leanne Edermaniger

May 22, 2024

Reviewed by: Dr Thom Phillips

In this article:

What is Albumin?

Albumin is a protein made in the liver and is the most abundant protein in circulation[1]. It is a good biomarker for liver and kidney health.

Albumin has many functions in the body, including:

  • Maintaining osmotic pressure
  • Transporting hormones and drugs
  • Neutralising free radicals[2]
  • Transporting nutrients (calcium and zinc), free fatty acids and bilirubin1

Albumin maintains oncotic pressure, so draws water into the blood vessels, supporting blood volume and pressure, and stopping fluid from leaking out of the blood vessels unnecessarily. Low oncotic pressure can cause low blood pressure or hypotension while high oncotic pressure is associated with high blood pressure (hypertension).

What are Normal Albumin Levels?

The reference ranges for albumin can differ depending on the testing laboratory, but generally healthy levels range between 35 and 50 g/L[3].

Data compiled from 2160 albumin test results between January and April 2024 shows that the average albumin level for Forth customers is 46.7 g/L.

We have also gathered albumin levels by age and gender:

Age Female Male
18 – 29 46.9 48.8
30 – 39 45.6 47.6
40 – 49 45.2 47.0
50 – 59 45.9 46.8
60+ 44.9 45.1
Average for all age groups 45.7 47.3

Our results are similar to previous research demonstrating that albumin levels fall with age in men and women[4][5]. Evidence suggests that albumin levels peak at around 20 years and then decrease gradually with age, suggesting that albumin may be a blood biomarker for ageing.

Causes and Symptoms of High Albumin

Increased albumin levels or albuminuria occurs because of kidney damage, particularly when the kidney’s filtration centre, glomerulus, is impaired.

Albuminuria can be short or long-term depending on the cause.

Higher than normal albumin levels can be caused by:

  • Dehydration: There are many reasons why someone can become dehydrated, like not drinking enough fluids, experiencing severe diarrhoea, or burns injuries.
  • Certain medications: Steroids or insulin can increase albumin to above-average levels.
  • Prolonged tourniquet application: Applying a tourniquet for prolonged periods can increase plasma protein levels including albumin[6].
  • High-intensity exercise: The physiological stress of high-intensity exercise can cause a temporary increase in albumin levels[7].
  • Infection or illness: Some infections are commonly associated with increased albumin levels.

Symptoms of high albumin

It’s possible to have no symptoms with albuminuria which is why it is important to regularly check your levels, especially if you have any associated risk factors.

If symptoms are present, they can include:

  • Foamy urine
  • Peeing more often than usual
  • Puffy eyes
  • Swollen feet, ankles, belly, or face[8]

Causes and Symptoms of Low Albumin

Low albumin, also known as hypo-albuminaemia, may be a sign of kidney disease, liver damage, or inflammation.

Some of the common causes of low albumin levels are:

  • Malnutrition: Low albumin levels may suggest a low dietary intake[9], but there may be other contributing factors to low levels, such as inflammation. In children and infants, low albumin may be a sign of protein-energy malnutrition called kwashiorkor.
  • Liver disease: Conditions such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can cause low albumin levels as liver function reduces. Albumin levels drop because of a reduction in liver cell mass, either because of the disease itself or the medicines used in response[10].
  • Kidney disease: Kidney disease patients with low albumin are at a higher risk of kidney failure[11]. When kidneys are healthy they work to stop proteins, including albumin from being lost in urine. So, if the filtration system becomes damaged it allows albumin to escape, and it is a useful biomarker for kidney disease.
  • Inflammation: Both acute and chronic inflammation can cause a reduction in albumin, including wounds, burns, cancer, organ failure, malnutrition, and trauma[12].
  • Conditions affecting the absorption and digestion of proteins: Conditions such as Crohn’s disease are linked to low albumin levels because of overconsumption and destruction. Albumin levels, alongside other biomarkers such as bilirubin and uric acid, could indicate disease activity[13].

Symptoms of low albumin

Low levels are likely to be diagnosed as part of routine laboratory blood tests, but some people may experience symptoms, like:

  • Swelling of the body (anasarca)
  • Swelling around the belly
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Iron deficiency in people with Coeliac disease[14]

People who have low albumin levels may experience the symptoms of an underlying condition causing low levels.

How to Check Albumin Levels

The best way to assess your albumin levels is with a blood test.

It is simple to check your albumin level with one of our at-home finger prick test kits. The following measure albumin levels as standard:

Albumin should be checked alongside other key liver biomarkers to assess your liver function. You can check albumin and the following biomarkers with our Liver Function Blood Test:

  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
  • Bilirubin
  • Gamma GT
  • Globulin
  • Total protein

Kidney biomarkers can show you how well your kidneys are functioning. You can check your albumin levels and kidney health with our Kidney Function Blood Test which measures 10 key kidney biomarkers:

  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
  • Albumin
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
  • Creatinine
  • eGFR
  • Gamma GT
  • Globulin
  • Total protein
  • Urea
  • Uric acid

How to Improve Albumin Levels

The best way to address abnormal albumin levels is to treat the underlying cause, if it has been identified.

How to improve albumin levels with diet

If albumin levels are low because of a low protein intake there are things you can do to encourage your levels back into a healthy range.

The food you eat plays a major part in your overall health and wellbeing, and it can have an important effect on liver health. The liver is the detoxification plant within the body, detoxifying chemicals, supporting the metabolism of drugs, and aiding blood filtration.

Low blood albumin levels may be a sign that you are not eating enough protein. Therefore, it may be beneficial to increase your intake of protein-rich food sources, such as:

  • Meat (beef, pork, lamb)
  • Poultry (chicken and turkey)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts)
  • Dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese)

How to improve albumin levels with hydration

High albumin levels indicate dehydration which a lack of fluid intake or conditions such as severe dehydration may cause.

If dehydration is left untreated it can become severe and lead to a medical emergency. So, if you or anyone you know is experiencing severe dehydration, you should seek medical attention right away.

You can improve your overall hydration status by drinking around 2 litres of water per day, although this may need to be increased if you are exposed to hot temperatures or are exercising. That’s because you will need to replace the fluid your body is losing to help keep water intake and loss balanced.

Almost three-quarters of the liver is made up of water which it requires to function properly. This is also true of the kidneys which require water to help remove waste from the blood and transport it out of the body in urine. Water also helps to keep your blood vessels open, allowing blood to flow freely through them, and enabling the transport of nutrients around the body.

Water isn’t the only drink which counts towards your hydration status, beverages such as tea, coffee, milk, juice, and squash also help. Alcohol, however, does not and instead can make you dehydrated because it makes both your kidneys and liver work harder to detoxify and remove the alcohol from the body, making you pee more often.

Written by Leanne Edermaniger

Based in the UK, Leanne specialises in writing about health, medicine, nutrition, and fitness.

She has over 5 years of experience in writing about health and lifestyle and has a BSc (hons) Biomedical Science and an MSc Science, Communication and Society.

- Health scores calculated


Article references

  1. Miller, A., & Jedrzejczak, W. W. (2001). Albumina--funkcje biologiczne i znaczenie kliniczne [Albumin--biological functions and clinical significance]. Postepy higieny i medycyny doswiadczalnej, 55(1), 17–36.

  2. Salive, M.E. et al. (1992) ‘Serum albumin in older persons: Relationship with age and Health Status’, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 45(3), pp. 213–221. doi:10.1016/0895-4356(92)90081-w.

  3. Cheng, T. et al. (2023) ‘The level of serum albumin is associated with renal prognosis and renal function decline in patients with chronic kidney disease’, BMC Nephrology, 24(1). doi:10.1186/s12882-023-03110-8.

This article was written by Leanne Edermaniger

This information has been medically reviewed by Dr Thom Phillips

Thom works in NHS general practice and has a decade of experience working in both male and female elite sport. He has a background in exercise physiology and has published research into fatigue biomarkers.

Dr Thom Phillips

Dr Thom Phillips

Head of Clinical Services