Changes in pancreatic exocrine secretion with age: pancreatic exocrine secretion does decrease in the elderly

Digestion. 1991;50(3-4):202-11. doi: 10.1159/000200762.


Pancreatic exocrine secretion was estimated in 180 normal control patients, free of abdominal and pancreatic disease, aged from 16 to 83 years. Duodenal juice was collected in two 15-min fractions after a single intravenous injection of 1 U/kg secretin + 3 U/kg CCK. Volume, maximal concentration and output of bicarbonate, lipase, phospholipase and chymotrypsin were estimated as well as minimal concentration and output of chloride and calcium. Each parameter was plotted against age, either individually or after separation into two age groups. Volume linearly increased up to the 3rd decade, and thereafter linearly decreased. Bicarbonate secretion paralleled fluid secretion and also decreased after the 3rd decade. The changes in chloride and calcium concentrations were different: concentrations linearly increased after the 3rd decade. Calcium concentration linearly increased with age (p less than 0.02) while chloride output was unchanged. The three enzymes that were studied linearly decreased in concentration as well as in output with age from the 3rd decade (p less than 0.02). Protein secretion decreased before water and bicarbonate secretion. One can conclude that pancreatic secretion changes in humans with age. Aging alters pancreatic secretion, through a decrease in flow rate, bicarbonate and enzyme secretion while calcium concentration is enhanced. Although not requiring substitutive therapy in the whole population, individual cases of pancreatic exocrine insufficiency might be explained by aging, without malnutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Bicarbonates / metabolism
  • Chymotrypsin / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreas / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Juice / chemistry
  • Pancreatic Juice / metabolism*
  • Phospholipases / metabolism
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Bicarbonates
  • Phospholipases
  • Lipase
  • Chymotrypsin