The risk of an acute pancreatitis attack increases steeply with the consumption of just one 4cl measure of spirits, says an online study published by BJS (British Journal of Surgery), although wine or beer do not show up to have the same effect.
A study conducted by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden involved 84,601 participants between the ages of 46 and 84 from Vastmanland and Uppsala who were observed by researchers for an average period of 10 years. Amongst them, a total of 513 people developed acute pancreatitis.
Leading author Dr. Omid Sadr-Azodi said: “Our study revealed a steady increase between each measure of spirits a person drank on one occasion and the risk of having an acute attack of pancreatitis, starting at just under ten% for one 4cl drink. For example, drinking 20cl of spirits – five standard Swedish measures – on a single occasion increased the risk of an acute episode by 52% and the risk then continued to increase at that rate for every five additional units consumed. But drinking more than five 15cl glasses of wine or five 33cl beers on one occasion did not increase the risk.”
He added: “We also discovered that the average monthly consumption of alcohol did not increase the risk. However, it is important to point out that most of the people included in our study drank alcohol within acceptable ranges, consuming one to two glasses a day.”
Despite increases in sales of wine and beer, the incidence rates of acute pancreatitis saw a fall due to a decline in sales of spirits. The authors were keen on investigating the effect of different types of alcohol on acute pancreatitis after observing a similar trend in Finland.
The key observations of the study are as follows:
• The average age of patients with pancreatitis was 64 years. Acute pancreatitis of uncertain or unknown origin or alcohol-related acute pancreatitis made up for 56% of cases, of which 66% were men. Gallstones-related acute pancreatitis made up for 44% of cases, of which 48% were men.
• The highest single-occasion alcohol consumption, including wine, beer, and spirits was observed in males and younger patients.
• An elevated consumption of single occasion spirits was associated with a 9% rise in diabetes levels while a low consumption led to a rise of 6% only.
• A lower intake of beer and spirits was observed amongst non-smoking educated people who consumed fruit and vegetables regularly.
• Although elimination of patients with gallstone-related disease did not affect overall results, it only reduced the overall risk of an acute attack following the consumption of five measures of spirits between 52% and 39%.
Dr. Sadr-Azodi concludes: “When alcohol metabolizes, it induces oxidative stress and this in turn can lead to damaged pancreatic tissue. However, research has shown, that alcohol on its own is not sufficient to cause acute pancreatitis. Our study suggests that there are constituents in spirits that are not present in wine and beer and that they can cause acute pancreatitis, either on their own or in combination with alcohol.”
Establishing a link between increased spirit consumption and acute pancreatitis necessitates further research special emphasis on components other than alcohol.