New York: Regular drinking can weaken the pancreas's ability to absorb vitamin C, potentially predisposing the body to pancreatitis and other pancreatic diseases, says a new study. The pancreas produces the enzymes used to digest food and the hormones, such as insulin, that are needed to store energy from food. Pancreatic diseases and damage to the pancreas can lead to digestive problems, malnutrition and diabetes. Reducing the levels of vitamin C and other essential micronutrients will interfere with normal cellular activities in the pancreas, said lead researcher Hamid Said from University of California, Irvine in the US, "This may sensitize the pancreas to a secondary insult, predisposing it to the development of pancreatitis and other pancreatic diseases," Said explained. The findings appeared in the American Journal of Physiology -- Cell Physiology reports. To function properly, pancreatic cells require a number of vitamins, which they take from the blood stream. In this study, the research team investigated whether alcohol exposure interfered with the pancreas's absorption of vitamin C. The research team first identified the protein called sodium-dependent vitamin C transporter 2 (SVCT-2) as the main protein responsible for transporting vitamin C into pancreatic cells. Next, the researchers exposed mouse pancreatic cells to alcohol levels similar to the blood alcohol concentration of chronic alcoholics. The researchers also fed mice a diet in which alcohol made up 25 percent of the total calories consumed. They found that both pancreatic cells directly exposed to alcohol and pancreatic cells from alcohol-fed mice had lower numbers of SVCT-2, blocking the cells' absorption of vitamin C.