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Study links pancreatitis risk to blood fats

By Ryan Maass
Study links pancreatitis risk to blood fats
Scientists say their findings suggest medical professionals should focus more on mild increases in blood fat. Photo by zhouxuan12345678/Flickr

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Even mild increases in blood fat levels may indicate an elevated risk for pancreatitis, scientists in Denmark suggest.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, researchers at the University of Copenhagen concluded additional factors contribute to the onset of pancreatitis. Previously, the disease was tied to severe alcoholism in addition to high levels of blood fats. According to their findings, blood fat level increases do not need to be as high as once believed.

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"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," medical student Simon Bo Pedersen said in a press release. "In fact, it turns out that the risk of developing pancreatitis is far greater than the risk of developing say, cardiovascular diseases."

During the study, scientists examined three states of fat in the blood. These variables included low, mild and high levels of fat concentration. To the surprise of the research team, even a 2 mmol-per-liter increase significantly elevated the risk of pancreas inflammation at a rate nine times higher than blood fat levels at 5 to 10 mmol-per-liter.

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"It's far more serious than we previously believed it to be," researcher Børge Nordestgaard said. "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."

Pancreatitis is a sometimes fatal disease characterized by the inflammation in the pancreas, and can appear as either acute and last for days or as chronic and last for years. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea and fever.

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