Acute pancreatitis has been linked to drinking spirits, more so than wine or beer, a study reveals.
The risk of suffering an acute attack of pancreatitis – a painful inflammation of the pancreas – is increased following the consumption of just one measure of spirits. However, beer and wine do not appear to increase this risk, a new study shows.
The pancreas is a gland found behind the stomach. It is essential for the normal digestion and absorption of food by the body. Symptoms of acute pancreatitis can include severe abdominal pain, a swollen abdomen and jaundice.
Between 1% and 3% of people who consume more than four or five drinks a day will develop an inflamed pancreas over 10 to 20 years. It accounts for 25,000 hospital admissions and 950 deaths in England per year.
“Drinking spirits rather than wine or beer is linked to an increased risk of inflammation of the pancreas, according to a new study.
Acute pancreatitis is uncommon but people with gallstones and heavy drinkers are more likely to develop the condition.
Previous research has shown that the risk goes up the more people drink but experts have not known which type of alcohol creates the most problems.
Now, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have found that spirits increase the risk of developing acute pancreatitis, and just one large drink can have an effect.
Writing in the British Journal of Surgery, a team analysed decade-long data for 84,601 people aged 46 to 84, of which 513 developed acute pancreatitis.
The results showed that one drink containing 12g of alcohol (just under a double UK pub measure of spirits) increased the risk by just under 10%.
Meanwhile, consuming 60g of alcohol in one sitting (7.5 standard UK pub measures of spirits) increased the risk by 52%. There was no increased risk from wine or beer.
Lead author Dr Omid Sadr-Azodi said: “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.”
It is already known that alcohol is a major risk factor for pancreatitis, with a majority of cases caused by excessive consumption. Heavy drinkers are more likely to develop the condition than those who consume the recommended amount of alcohol.