- Until now the risk of pancreatitis has been more commonly related to gallstones, a high intake of alcohol and very high concentrations of blood fats.
- Recent research proves that even a mild increase in blood fats other than cholesterol is harmful.
- Increase in the level of lipid can lead to a far higher risk of developing pancreatitis than the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Mild to moderate increase in levels of blood fats equals an increased risk of developing acute pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is very painful and it may lead to fatalities. Until now, medical science has connected the risk of developing this illness to gallstone, a high intake of alcohol and very high concentrations of blood fats. However, new research reveals that even mildly increased levels of blood fats is a risk factor.
The latest study has involved more than 115,000 participants from Denmark, and the results have just been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.
Normal levels of blood fats would typically be 0-2 mmol per litre, while 2-10 is classified as a mild to moderate increase. If blood fat levels rise above 10 mmol per litre, it is considered a very high increase and previously, this was considered the risk factor to look for in relation to pancreatitis. However, this latest study shows that even a 2 mmol per litre increase significantly increases the risk of pancreas inflammation, and the risk is nine times higher with blood fat levels at 5-10 mmol per litre.
"It's far more serious than we previously believed it to be. Risk factors should therefore include a mild to moderate increase in blood fats, i.e. if a patient suddenly suffers e.g. severe stomach pains, which is a symptom related to acute pancreatitis, we should measure the patient's blood fats," says Professor Børge Nordestgaard from the University of Copenhagen and Herlev and Gentofte Hospital.
Pancreatitis is a common disease. It affects 2-3,000 people in Denmark annually and the number is rising. The inflammation typically occurs when cells in the pancreas discharge digestive enzymes, which then start to demolish the pancreas and damage the surrounding tissue.
"Until now, medical science has focused primarily on high blood cholesterol, but our study shows that we should also pay attention to more common fats. Mild to moderate levels of blood fats cause a lot more diseases than we have hitherto been aware of and we need much more research on this area," says Børge Nordestgaard.