How individual consumer patterns could uncover lifestyle determinants of health and disease

Project leader: Mads Melbye

Postdoc: Frederik Trier Møller

The impact of most daily products we buy on our health is currently unknown, due to a lack of access to continuously collected detailed lifestyle data. In this project we will use currently unused continuously collected electronic customer receipts, to model lifestyle determinants on disease onset and behavior and improve lifestyle advice. Initially, we aim to identify lifestyle determinants of flares in complex inflammatory diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Approximately 5% of the Danish population suffer from chronic autoimmune diseases affecting many young people, with the majority being females. Individuals affected by autoimmune diseases have an unmet need for lifestyle advice that could improve the disease course. To clarify the underlying causes of complex autoimmune disease, it is crucial to collect continuous highly-detailed lifestyle data to assess exposure to nutrients, chemicals and additives in daily life. Combined with assessment of disease activity the lifestyle determinants of disease flares could be assessed. This project leverages the existing Danish framework for conducting population-based studies of disease exposures and outcomes and a highly digitalized retail sector.

Data from costumer receipts are, with the consumers consent, already continuously collected and used in targeted marketing. Recently published research suggests that costumer receipts data reflect individual lifestyle. To date more than a 100.000 products have a digital id in Denmark that are promoting upstream traceability. Each receipt are higly individual as the consumer chooses a subset of products out of all products available, thus in effect answering a +1000 items intentional yes/no questionnaire. This multiple item answer is repeated in continous manner throughout life, underlining the potential depth of knowledge to be extracted from consumer receipts. Furthermore each product may in time be characterized in detail, including unintended contents. As such the potential public health knowledge to cost ratio seem beneficial for consumer receipts compared to traditional means to collect lifestyle information to study medium to long term outcomes. By analyzing customer receipts data information at a household level and subdivide each product into its constituents we can achieve unparalleled detail on individual exposures. In addition Denmark offers an excellent research framework to assess key health related outcomes such as death, medication, and surgery. We will monitor disease outcomes of Danish participants affected by either of the aforementioned diseases, using information from national registries, patient files and routine samples. Digital informed consent secures ethical, safe and transparent implementation of the project.

Combined, these datasources enables participating researchers to reach the initial main objective, to provide targeted prevention of disease flares in complex autoimmune disease.