BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: While alcohol is considered the most common aetiological factor for chronic pancreatitis, the intake of various nutrient and other substances is thought to act as cofactors in the pathogenesis of the disease due to modulation of oxidative stress. This study examined incident cases of acute pancreatitis to determine the dietary and other intakes that characterize those harbouring underlying chronic pancreatitis. METHODS: Cases of acute pancreatitis presenting to a single institution were prospectively recruited (n = 153). The presence of chronic pancreatitis was defined by a composite of clinical, biochemical and radiological criteria. Information was obtained on the intake of dietary macro- and micronutrients, coffee, tobacco and alcohol in the period just prior to the acute exacerbation. Univariate and multivariate analyses of association were undertaken. Principal components analysis (PCA) was employed to elicit patterns of intake. RESULTS: After adjustment for key demographic variables, no individual nutrient or other substance showed a significant association with chronic pancreatitis. However, following PCA there emerged a significant positive association with a so-called "stimulant" intake pattern and a negative association with a so-called "nutritive" pattern. CONCLUSIONS: Preceding an acute exacerbation, patients with underlying chronic pancreatitis are more likely to substitute food-based intake for combinations of other substances, such as tobacco and coffee. This finding may have application in the clinical setting as part of a chronic disease management protocol.