“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.
Far more serious than it was previously believed to be
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
Professor Børge Nordestgaard
The need for more knowledge
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. I know that currently studies are undertaken that investigate whether lowering the levels of blood fats also lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. I eagerly await the answer, because we need more knowledge,” says Børge Nordestgaard.