People with PKU must follow a strict low protein diet, perform regular blood tests to monitor levels and take a dietary supplement to avoid severe and irreversible brain damage.
What is the diet?
This diet must be extremely low in protein and therefore is highly restrictive. Foods they cannot eat include: meat, dairy, eggs, wheat, rice and other grains, nuts and soy. Even intake of some vegetables and fruits must be restricted. Most foods need to be weighed and calculated for protein content to ensure that the daily allowance is not exceeded.
This means most people with PKU cannot eat pizza, birthday cake, regular bread, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, chocolate, hot dogs, hamburgers, or turkey at Christmas.
Why <10 grams of Protein?
Due to the spectrum of severity in PKU, individual daily protein intake can vary from 1 gram to 23 grams of protein (most are around 6-8 grams).
The Great Protein Challenge asks you to consume less than 10 grams of protein in a single day. The reality is for most Australians living with PKU 10 grams a day would be a luxury, but for those not used to restricting protein it will be a challenge.
To put this in perspective, 10 grams of protein would be easily consumed just with the following:
|1 banana||= 2 grams of protein|
|1 cup of Rice bubbles||= 1 gram of protein|
|1 cup of Rice milk||= 1 gram of protein|
|60g of hot chips||= 2 grams of protein|
|Half an avocado||= 1 gram of protein|
|20g of green peas||= 1 gram of protein|
|Half a cup of boiled white rice||= 2 grams of protein|
How do I calculate my daily Protein?
Players participating in The Great Protein Challenge can access our handy protein calculator when completing the challenge to check and track content of food items. The protein content of most packaged foods can also be found on the nutritional label (usually stated in serves and also per 100 grams), so you can also manually input your protein amounts consumed throughout the day.
Is <10 grams a day possible??
Yes it is, but it will take careful planning and attention to food ingredients and labels in order to create a fulfilling menu plan for the day.
It is no secret the diet is extremely restrictive and the counting and tracking is complex, but we encourage you to give it a go – so you can truly experience for yourself some of the complexities and challenges people living with PKU and managing their condition on a daily basis face.
How do people with PKU live on <10 grams of Protein on an ongoing basis?
PKU individuals have a detailed understanding of the diet – as most of them have been on it since infancy and know no different. This doesn’t mean it is easy, but it does mean counting protein for many comes naturally as it is something instilled into them since birth
Given the severity of restrictions, the PKU diet also includes access to specially medically manufactured low protein foods (such as low protein pasta, cereal, milk, rice, cheese etc). These foods are limited in selection and come at an extremely high price tag but are essential to the majority of Australians living with PKU to be able to sustain a fulfilling diet.
How do people with PKU survive and grow with such little protein?
People without PKU get all the protein they need from the food they eat.
Because protein intake is restricted in the PKU diet, the supplement makes up for what they don’t get from food. For people with PKU, the supplement is vital. It provides all the essential amino acids (except phenylalanine), tyrosine, vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
The supplement is not available to people taking the challenge as it is accessible via prescription only. This is why the challenge is only recommended for 1 single day, as without the supplement, a person is likely to become protein deficient when on the diet for an extended period of time.