New Systematic Review of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) In Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes – Focusing on Prevalence and Treatment

I’m thrilled that the research I did evaluating the prevalence and treatment of EPI in both Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes (also presented as a poster at #ADA2023 – read a summary of the poster here) has now been published as a full systematic review in Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics.

Here is a pre-edited submitted version of my article that you can access if you don’t have journal access; and as a reminder, copies of ALL of my research articles are available on this page:!

And if you don’t want to read the full paper, this is what I think you should take away from it as a person with diabetes or as a healthcare provider:

    1. What is EPI? 

      Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (known as EPI in some places, and PEI or PI in other places) occurs when the pancreas no longer produces enough enzymes to digest food. People with EPI take pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) whenever they eat (or drink anything with fat/protein).

    2. If I have diabetes, or treat people with diabetes, why should I be reading the rest of this about EPI?EPI often occurs in people with cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer. However, since these diseases are rare (think <0.1% of the general population even when these groups are added up all together), the total number of people with EPI from these causes is quite low. On the other hand, EPI is also common in people with diabetes, but this is less well-studied and understood. The research on other co-conditions is more frequent and often people confuse the prevalence WITHIN those groups with the % of those conditions occurring overall in the EPI community.This paper reviews every paper that includes data on EPI and people with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes to help us better understand what % of people with diabetes are likely to face EPI in their lifetime.
    3. How many people with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes (or diabetes overall) get EPI?TLDR of the paper: EPI prevalence in diabetes varies widely, reported between 5.4% and 77% when the type of diabetes isn’t specified. For Type 1 diabetes, the median EPI prevalence is 33% (range 14-77.5%), and for Type 2 diabetes, the median is 29% (range 16.8-49.2%). In contrast, in non-diabetes control groups, the EPI prevalence ranges from 4.4% to 18% (median 13%). The differences in ranges might be due to geographic variability and different exclusion criteria across studies.Diabetes itself is prevalent in about 10% of the general population. As such, I hypothesize that people with diabetes likely constitute one of the largest sub-groups of individuals with EPI, in contrast to what I described above might be more commonly assumed.
    4. Is pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) safe for people with diabetes? 

      Yes. There have been safety and efficacy studies in people with diabetes with EPI, and PERT is effective just like in any other group of people with EPI.

    5. What is the effect of pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) on glucose levels in people with diabetes?
      PERT itself does not affect glucose levels, but PERT *d0es* impact the digestion of food, which then changes glucose levels! So, most PERT labels warn to watch for hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia but the medicine itself doesn’t directly cause changes in glucose levels. You can read a previous study I did here using CGM data to show the effect of PERT actually causing improved glucose after meals in someone with Type 1 diabetes. But, in the systematic review, I found only 4 articles that even made note of glucose levels, and only 1 (the paper I linked above) actually included CGM data. Most of the studies are old, so there are no definitive conclusions on whether hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia is more common when a person with diabetes and EPI starts taking PERT. Instead, it’s likely very individual depending on what they’re eating, insulin dosing patterns before, and whether they’re taking enough PERT to match what they’re eating.TLDR here: more studies are needed because there’s no clear single directional effect on glucose levels from PERT in people with diabetes.Note: based on the n=1 study above, and subsequent conversations with other people with diabetes, I hypothesize that high variability and non-optimal post-meal glucose outcomes may be an early ‘symptom’ of EPI in people with diabetes. I’m hoping to eventually generate some studies to evaluate whether we could use this type of data as an input to help increase screening of EPI in people with diabetes.
    6. How common is EPI (PEI / PI) compared to celiac and gastroparesis in Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes? 

      As a person with (in my case, Type 1) diabetes, I feel like I hear celiac and gastroparesis talked about often in the diabetes community. I had NEVER heard of EPI prior to realizing I had it. Yet, EPI prevalence in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is much higher than that of celiac or gastroparesis!The prevalence of EPI is much higher in T1 and T2 than the prevalence of celiac and gastroparesis.Celiac disease is more common in people with diabetes (~5%) than in the general public (0.5-1%). Gastroparesis, when gastric emptying is delayed, is also more common in people with diabetes (5% in PWD).However, the  prevalence of EPI is 14-77.5% (median 33%) in Type 1 diabetes and 16.8-49.2% (median 29%) in Type 2 diabetes (and 5.4-77% prevalence when type of diabetes was not specified). This again is higher than general population prevalence of EPI.

      This data emphasizes that endocrinologists and other diabetes care providers should be more prone to initiate screening (using the non-invasive fecal elastase test) for individuals presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms, as the rates of EPI in diabetes are much higher in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes than the rates of celiac and gastroparesis.

    7. What should I do if I think I have EPI?
      Record your symptoms and talk to your doctor and ask for a fecal elastase (FE-1) screening test for EPI. It’s non-invasive. If your results are less than or equal to 200 (μg/g), this means you have EPI and should start on PERT. If you or your doctor feel that your sample may have influenced the results of your test, you can always re-do the test. But if you’re dealing with diarrhea, going on PERT may resolve or improve the diarrhea and improve the quality of the sample for the next test result. PERT doesn’t influence the test result, so you can start PERT and re-run the test any time.Symptoms of EPI can vary. Some people experience diarrhea, while others experience constipation. Steatorrhea or smelly, messy stools that stick to the side of the toilet are also common EPI symptoms, as is bloating, abdominal pain, and generally not feeling well after you eat.

      If you’ve been diagnosed with EPI, you may also want to check out some of my other posts ( about my personal experiences with EPI and also this post about the amount of enzymes needed by most people with EPI. You may also want to check out PERT Pilot, a free iOS app, for recording and evaluating your PERT dosing.

If you want to read the full article, you can find copies of all of my research articles at

If you’d like to cite this specific article in your future research, here’s an example citation:

Lewis, D. A Systematic Review of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency Prevalence and Treatment in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *