From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published June 28, 2012 10:43 AM

Lots of Vegetables Found to Prevent Acute Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, the gland behind the stomach which releases digestive enzymes to break down food in the stomach. It also secretes pancreatic juice which aids in absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. It is an essential organ for digestion, and it also produces several important hormones including insulin. However, sometimes, the digestive enzymes released go to work on the pancreas itself. Enough damage to the pancreas can lead to acute pancreatitis, a potentially life threatening condition. A new study published in the journal Gut, has found that diet rich in vegetables may help stave off acute pancreatitis.

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Previous research found that excessive production of free radicals, the by-products of cellular activity, was associated with acute pancreatitis. Anti-oxidant enzymes which clean out the free radicals are increased during an attack. The researchers aimed to find out if an imbalance in anti-oxidant levels would make the pancreas more sensitive to the effects of free radicals, which increases the risk of acute pancreatitis. Anti-oxidant levels are associated with many dietary factors.

They sampled a group of 80,000 adults in central Sweden for an average of 11 years. The process started with a dietary questionnaire in 1997, which asked how often they had eaten a total of 96 different foods over the previous year.

Average fruit and vegetable servings was just under 2 servings per day per day. Those who ate the fewest vegetables were men, smokers, and individuals with less education.

Over the monitoring period, 320 people got acute pancreatitis that was not associated with the complications of gallstones — another common cause of the condition.

Fruit consumption seemed to have little effect, but not for vegetables. An analysis of the data showed that people who ate the most vegetables, over 4 servings per day, were 44% less likely to develop acute pancreatitis than those who at the least, less than 1 serving per day.

The benefit of a vegetable-rich diet was greatest in people who drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day, and those who were overweight.

The reason for the protective effect of vegetables is the high level of antioxidants, say the authors. However, fruit also has a high level of anti-oxidants but was found not to help. This is due to the high fructose content, which is linked to the production of free radicals.

This study was published in the journal, Gut

Pancreatitis image via Shutterstock

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