Alcoholism & Addiction

Alcohol Consumption Linked to Acute Pancreatitis

Alcohol consumption is associated with many negative consequences, some of which immediately follow the use of alcohol while others take time to develop. For instance, alcohol use is connected with dangerous behaviors and risky sexual choices (immediate consequences), but it is also associated with a higher risk of long-term health complications such as cancer and liver disease.

A New Threat to Drinkers

Recently, a research team at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden discovered a new problem associated with alcohol use that was not linked to drinking wine or beer. Led by Dr. Omid Sadr-Azodi, the team found that just 4cl of spirits could increase the risk for an acute pancreatitis attack.

The study, published online by the British Journal of Surgery, followed 84,601 people between the ages of 46 and 84 over an average period of 10 years. The sample was comprised of participants located in Vastmanland and Uppsala. Over the 10-year period, 513 of the participants developed acute pancreatitis.

Dr. Sadr-Azodi explained that the study’s results show a steady increase in the risk of having an acute attack of pancreatitis, with a 4cl drink raising the risk by about 10 percent. Drinking 20cl of spirits on one occasion increased the risk of acute pancreatitis by 52 percent.

Even Once May Be Too Much

The researchers also found that average monthly consumption of alcohol was not associated with the measurement of the occurrence of acute pancreatitis. The participants included in the study generally consumed alcohol within acceptable ranges, with use remaining in the range of one to two drinks per day.

The study’s authors listed several key findings:

  • The average age of patients who were diagnosed with pancreatitis was 64.
  • For 56 percent of cases, the cause of acute pancreatitis was determined to be alcohol or an unknown cause (66 percent of these cases were men).
  • Gallstones were to blame for 44 percent of the cases, of which 48 percent were men.

The highest rate of single-occasion alcohol consumption was among males and younger patients. High single-occasion spirits consumption is linked to a significantly higher rate of diabetes. Those with high single-occasion spirits consumption had 9 percent higher levels of diabetes than those with lower alcohol consumption, at 6 percent.

The study also found a correlation among education levels, lifestyle and drinking habits. Those participants with higher education levels who never smoked and consumed fruits and vegetables were less likely to drink beer and spirits heavily.

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