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Question : My mother-in-law had a low alanine transaminase (ALT) score on her last blood test. What is ALT and is it significant?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Mary Pickett, M.D. is an Associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University where she is a primary care doctor for adults. She supervises and educates residents in the field of Internal Medicine, for outpatient and hospital care. She is a Lecturer for Harvard Medical School and a Senior Medical Editor for Harvard Health Publications.

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March 21, 2011
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A:

The ALT blood test is a routine way to test liver health. ALT is also named "alanine aminotransferase" and "serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (SGPT)."

ALT is a protein that helps chemical reactions occur in your liver. It plays a role in changing stored sugar (glucose) into usable energy.

If cells in the liver are injured, ALT leaks from the cells. This makes the level of ALT in the blood increase. The ALT level is notable when it is high. The most common cause of liver cell injury is hepatitis.

A low ALT level is not a cause for concern. Although no one knows why, researchers have noticed that the ALT level is more likely to be low after drinking coffee or other sources of caffeine. A low level of ALT in the blood is not related to a medical problem.

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