Fatty pancreas carries increased risk of diabetes mellitus

14 Oct 2021
Pancreatic cells with islets under the microscope. (image credit: Shutterstock)

Individuals with fatty pancreas appear to be at heightened risk of developing subsequent diabetes mellitus, but not hypertension or dyslipidaemia, as suggested in a study.

The study involved 631 individuals (mean age 48 years) who participated in a population study using fat-water magnetic resonance imaging to quantify pancreatic and liver fat content. They were followed for a mean of 11.1 years for the incidence of newly diagnosed diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, ischaemic heart disease, cardiovascular accidents, pancreatic cancer, and mortality. None of the individuals included in the study had significant alcohol intake and diabetes at baseline.

Of the participants, 93 (14.7 percent) had a fatty pancreas. Individuals who did vs did not have a fatty pancreas were more likely to have a higher incidence of diabetes (33.3 percent vs 10.4 percent; p<0.001), hypertension (37.7 percent vs 22.7 percent; p=0.003), and dyslipidaemia (37.7 percent vs 14.6 percent; p<0.001) during the follow-up.

Furthermore, the incidence of diabetes was highest among participants with both fatty liver and pancreas, followed by the group of those with fatty liver only and the group with fatty pancreas only (p<0.001).

Multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that fatty pancreas indeed conferred an increased risk of incident diabetes (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 1.81, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.10–3.00; p=0.020), but not hypertension or dyslipidaemia. Each percentage rise in pancreatic fat translated to a 7-percent increase in the risk of incident diabetes (aHR, 1.07, 95 percent CI, 1.01–1.13; p=0.016).

None of the participants developed pancreatic cancer during follow-up.

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