Subclinical exocrine pancreatic dysfunction resulting from decreased cholecystokinin secretion in the presence of intestinal villous atrophy

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2006 Sep;43(3):307-12. doi: 10.1097/01.mpg.0000228098.66583.85.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the concept that pancreatic dysfunction in patients having gluten sensitivity (celiac disease [CD]) or cow's milk protein enteropathy (CMPE) may result from the lack of pancreatic enzyme stimulation in the absence or decrease of cholecystokinin (CCK) secretion caused by villous atrophy.

Patients and methods: The following parameters were measured: plasma CCK in response to a fatty meal and human pancreatic fecal elastase in 24 patients with CD while on gluten-free diet and after gluten provocation and in 12 patients with CMPE at diagnosis and after a 6-month period of cow's milk-free diet. Intestinal mucosa morphology was examined by small bowel biopsy. Sixty-three controls having no organic gastrointestinal problems were investigated once at the time of diagnostic evaluation.

Results: Fasting CCK, obtained at a time when patients with CD or CMPE had normal intestinal mucosa, was significantly different from postprandial and comparable to that of the control group. Fasting CCK obtained from patients with villous atrophy was also statistically different, but not significantly, from the postprandial. Fasting and postprandial plasma CCK and fecal pancreatic elastase values from patients having normal intestinal mucosa were significantly higher than those obtained from patients with villous atrophy. Significant correlation of intestinal mucosa morphology and CCK with fecal elastase concentration was documented.

Conclusion: Exocrine pancreatic dysfunction in individuals having villous atrophy may be the consequence of decreased CCK secretion. Cholecystokinin and pancreatic secretion is restored to normal, with intestinal mucosa regeneration.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Atrophy
  • Biopsy
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Celiac Disease / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholecystokinin / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Feces / enzymology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestines / pathology*
  • Male
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / pathology
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / physiopathology*
  • Milk Proteins
  • Pancreas / physiopathology*
  • Pancreatic Elastase / analysis
  • Sincalide / blood


  • Dietary Fats
  • Milk Proteins
  • Cholecystokinin
  • Pancreatic Elastase
  • Sincalide