A phenylalanine (Phe)-restricted diet is the mainstay of phenylketonuria (PKU) treatment, and, in recent years, the nutritional management of PKU has become more complex in order to optimize patients' growth, development and diet compliance. Dietary restriction of Phe creates a diet similar to a vegan diet, and many of the nutritional concerns and questions applicable to vegans who wish to avoid animal products are also relevant to patients with PKU. Owing to their nutritional characteristics, breast milk and breastfeeding should be given greater consideration as a useful food in patients with PKU and in those with other inborn errors of metabolism. Further key issues for consideration include the quality of the available amino acid substitutes, the neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects of added long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. docosahexaenoic acid), micronutrient deficiencies, bone disease and antioxidant status. Long-term dietary guidance and monitoring of the nutritional status of patients with PKU should be part of a follow-up programme that continues for life.
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