Find out if an elevated ALT or AST can ever have a benign cause.

Just what does “elevated” mean in reference to the liver enzymes of ALT and AST?

The elevation can be mild, moderate or significant. I was wondering if the cause of a very mild elevation could ever be benign.

Benign Causes of Elevated ALT

“The only benign reason would be if that patient’s normal range is beyond the average, but that is very rare,” says Jeffrey Fine, MD, chief of gastroenterology at the Medical Surgical Clinic of Irving.

“For the most part, there are no benign elevations of ALT — there’s always a reason. Some medications can affect ALT levels, so can alcohol consumption and over-working your muscles.”

If you’re scheduled for a blood test for liver enzymes, do not lift weights for two to four days prior to the test, if you want to ensure that muscle fiber damage won’t influence the results.

However, a report in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology notes that in a study, the ALT and AST remained elevated seven days out from an intense weight lifting session in healthy men who were not weight lifters.

Benign Causes of Elevated AST

If the person’s normal range for AST is above average, says Dr. Fine, this can explain an “elevation,” but that’s rare.

“For the most part, AST elevations aren’t benign. There’s usually an underlying pathology like muscle inflammation or alcohol consumption.” And keep in mind the study in the BJCP noted above.

“If your AST or ALT levels are elevated, see a qualified physician as soon as possible.”

Dr. Fine has been in practice for over 25 years and specializes in digestive health, integrative medicine and food sensitivities.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  

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Top image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images
Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291230/