The pancreas has both endocrine and exocrine functions. The exocrine pancreas is made up of pancreatic acinar cells and a duct system that opens into the proximal duodenum. Pancreatic acinar cells synthesize and secrete digestive enzymes, which are essential for the digestion of complex dietary components such as proteins, triglycerides, and complex carbohydrates. The exocrine pancreas also secretes other essential substances, such as large amounts of bicarbonate, which buffers gastric acid, intrinsic factor, which is needed for cobalamin absorption, and colipase for fat absorption.
Last full review/revision March 2012 by Jörg M. Steiner, DrMedVet, PhD, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA