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.
Overall, between 1% and 3% of heavy drinkers (more than four or five drinks a day) will develop the condition over 10 to 20 years.
Nevertheless, acute pancreatitis accounts for 25,000 hospital admissions and 950 deaths in England every year.
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%.
Copyright © Press Association 2011
British Journal of Surgery
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