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First Danish estimates for the burden of disease for peanut allergy

Monday 08 Feb 21


Lea Sletting Jakobsen
Senior Researcher
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 71 30


Katrine Lindholm Bøgh
Senior Researcher, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 70 92

Estimating the burden of disease

The burden of disease is reported in DALYs, which stands for disability adjusted life years. DALYs are a measure of how many years of life the combined Danish population loses when people have to live with the disease and/or die earlier than expected due to the disease.

DALY can be used to compare the overall consequences of different diseases for an entire population. But DALY can also be divided by the number of people suffering from the disease, giving the average burden of disease at the individual level.

The National Food Institute have estimated the burden of disease for peanut allergy by including figures relating to e.g.: 

  • how often peanut allergy occurs
  • how long peanut allergy sufferers live with the disease
  • the severity of the allergic reactions
  • number of deaths attributed to intake of peanuts 
  • the loss of quality of life that comes with having to live with the disease.

Researchers at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, have produced the first estimates for the burden of disease for peanut allergy. Burden of disease data are useful for e.g. prioritizing health care initiatives.

Estimates of the disease burden relating to different diseases provide comparable—and thus better—data on how those diseases impact on public health. Decision-makers can use such knowledge to prioritize healthcare resources and initiatives.

Globally, food allergies are a growing problem. Many millions of people worldwide experience allergic reactions—some of which are potentially life-threatening—after eating certain foods. Even so, there are only few burden of disease estimates for entire populations relating to different allergies.

One of the most serious food allergies

Researchers at the National Food Institute have estimated the burden of disease for peanut allergy in Denmark. The burden of disease is reported in the unit DALY (see the definition to the right).

Peanut allergy is the most severe form of food allergy in terms of prevalence, persistency and severity of the health consequences it causes. Peanut allergy leads to the vast majority of severe allergic reactions, anaphylactic shocks, which require adrenaline treatment and causes the largest number of deaths.

The loss of quality of life is also significant—for the allergy sufferer as well as their families, who must adapt their diets and live with the fear of inadvertently eating peanuts.

Loss of quality of life contributes greatly to the burden of disease

According to the researchers, the burden of disease for peanut allergy is an annual loss of 906 healthy life years (DALY) in Denmark. This is mainly due to loss of quality of life, whereas fatal anaphylactic shocks caused by peanut allergy is only a small contributor to the burden of disease.

However, because there is uncertainty about the loss of quality of life in relation to other diseases, the researchers have conducted sensitivity analysis. These calculations estimate the disease burden for peanut allergy to be up to 1,055 DALY if the loss of quality of life is assumed to be comparable to asthma and up to 5,115 DALY if it is assumed comparable to rheumatoid arthritis.

In comparison, the burden of disease in Denmark for uncomplicated type 1 diabetes is 6,874 DALY, while it is 13,285 DALY for asthma. The institute has estimated the burden of disease for campylobacter (which is the most common foodborne illness) to be 1,709 DALY.

At the individual level, the researchers' estimates show that every peanut allergy sufferer loses an average of 3.4 healthy life years. In comparison, the figures are 0.57 for an asthmatic and 5.93 for someone with type 1 diabetes. The researchers' figures thus help to shed light on the importance of research into the prevention, management and treatment of peanut allergy.

Read more 

The researchers’ estimates are described in further detail in a letter to the editor of the scientific journal Allergy: The disease burden of peanut allergy in Denmark measured by disability adjusted life years (DALYs) . To the researchers’ knowledge, this is the first time the burden of disease for peanut allergy has been estimated at the population level.

Go to the National Food Institute’s website to read about the institute’s research into the burden of disease for different diseases: Calculating the real burden of disease.

Read more about the ways in which the National Food Institute develops and improves on strategies to prevent, manage and treat food allergies: Research Group for Food Allergy.