Background: Previous studies have suggested an association between impaired pancreatic exocrine function and diabetes, but the evidence is weak because the invasive nature of the tests used to define exocrine function has led to small studies on selected patients. The availability of faecal elastase 1 as a non-invasive test has aided the detection of impaired exocrine function in population studies. We describe the association between levels of faecal elastase 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Methods: 544 Type 2 diabetic patients (age: 63 +/- 8 years) were randomly selected from local diabetes registers in Cambridgeshire, UK and individually matched for age, sex and practice to 544 controls in whom diabetes was excluded by HbA1c measurement.
Results: Faecal elastase 1 concentrations were significantly lower in cases than controls (median: cases 308 microg/g; controls 418 microg/g; P < 0.01). Low levels of faecal elastase 1 (< 100 microg/g) were found in 11.9% of cases and 3.7% of controls (age-sex-adjusted odds ratio; 95% CI: 3.6; 2.2-6.2). After adjustment for potential confounding factors, the OR was 4.5 (2.6-8.3). Among patients with diabetes, poor glycaemic control (HbA1c > or = 7%) was associated with a higher risk of low elastase 1 level (OR 5.6; 1.5-37). No significant association was found with diabetes duration, peripheral neuropathy, alcohol intake, or prior gastrointestinal diseases.
Conclusions: Faecal elastase 1 concentrations are lower in Type 2 diabetic patients than in non-diabetic controls, suggesting the co-existence of diabetes and impaired pancreatic exocrine function. Among the diabetic patients, the risk of having low elastase 1 levels was associated with glycaemic control.