Over the last several decades, mankind has jumped by leaps and bounds, not only in the treatment of illness but also in the understanding of it. We know that smoking cigarettes can impact and affect our lungs and we know that drinking alcohol can cause damage to our livers. However, a new study has shed some light on pancreatitis and some of its root causes.
To put it simply, pancreatitis is a condition that is characterized by the inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is a condition that may be mild and self-limiting, though it can also lead to severe complications that can be life-threatening.
Until now, doctors, researchers, and the medical community, on the whole, have connected the risk of developing this illness to gallstones, a high intake of alcohol and very high concentrations of blood fats. However, new research out of Denmark suggests that even a mild increase in the level of blood fats in the body can contribute to a significant increase in risk.
“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.
The study involved more than 115,000 participants and has 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 liter, while 2-10 is classified as a mild to moderate increase. If blood fat levels rise above 10 mmol per liter, it is considered a very high increase and previously, this was considered the risk factor to look for in relation to pancreatitis. This latest study, however, shows that even a 2 mmol per liter increase significantly increases the risk of pancreas inflammation, and the risk is nine times higher with blood fat levels at 5-10 mmol per liter.
“We were surprised by the results, which show that even a mild to moderate rise in blood fats increases the risk of developing acute pancreatitis. In fact, it turns out that the risk of developing pancreatitis is far greater than the risk of developing say, cardiovascular diseases,” says medical student Simon Bo Pedersen from the University of Copenhagen and Herlev and Gentofte Hospital.
While anytime we learn of our bodies potential inadequacies can be a little unnerving, this should certainly be taken a step in the right direction. And although this is far from a cure to pancreatitis, it is definitely a step in the right direction for preventing it.