A low-protein diet is the main treatment for phenylketonuria (PKU). This is because people who have PKU lack an enzyme to properly process the amino acid phenylalanine, a part of protein.
Phenylalanine is present in all protein foods and in some non-protein foods, such as soda pop and aspartame (a sugar substitute). PKU diets typically do not contain high-protein foods such as:
Meat, eggs, and fish.
Bread, noodles, and wheat products.
Nuts, peas, and beans (and products made from these foods).
Milk and cheese.
Read food labels carefully. All foods that contain phenylalanine should have "contains phenylalanine" on the label.
The PKU diet may result in certain nutritional deficiencies that can slow a person's growth. It is important that everyone with PKU sees a specialist for nutritional counselling. This is especially important for those considering pregnancy.
Teach siblings, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, and friends about the dietary restrictions. They need to understand that symptoms of the disease will develop if the child does not follow the diet.
As your child grows, following the diet may become more difficult. Some children may rebel against the diet, especially during the teen years, as they gain more independence and are influenced by peers. Give your child some control by letting him or her choose what to eat from a variety of low-phenylalanine foods. Continue to stress the importance of staying with the diet. Explain how straying from the diet can cause both immediate and long-term consequences, such as lower intelligence.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerChuck Norlin, MD - Pediatrics