People suffering from a diet restricting disease will soon
have an alternative to the foul-tasting concoction that replaces protein in
their diets, thanks to researchers at University of Wisconsin.

Individuals inflicted with phenylketonuria must severely
restrict their intake of protein, including meat, fish and cheese because they
lack the enzyme required to break down phenylalanine, one of 20 major amino
acids that form the proteins in everyday foods, according to a UW statement.

Small amounts of
phenylalanine are required for life, but excess amounts interfere with brain
function. However, those who go off the special diet often suffer from
concentration problems and depression, and may even sustain permanent brain
damage, said Denise Ney, UW nutritional sciences professor.

With a grant to research whey, a byproduct of cheese-making,
UW food engineer Mark Etzel unexpectedly found a safe form of protein that
could significantly improve the diets of people diagnosed with PKU, Ney said.

?So far, the [whey] treatment is the only protein that
doesn?t have high levels of phenylalanine,? Ney said.

According to the UW statement, the unpleasant taste of the
amino acid drink that provides most of PKU patients? protein is a major reason
many struggle to drink enough to meet their doctor?s prescriptions, roughly two
to three cups a day.

?This should make it much easier for these people to stay on
their diets,? Ney said. ?The amino acid formula that most of their protein
comes from has a very strong taste.?

Researchers at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research have
begun creating products that containglycomacropeptide, a protein found in whey that is phenylalanine free.
Although it is not the best quality protein,these foodswill help to supplement the amino acid concoction and
will decrease the amount people with PKU will have to drink, the statement
said.

?We have a variety of foods,? Ney said. ?We have sports
drinks and milkshakes, pudding, crackers and fruit roll-ups. We are also
working on a puffed breakfast cereal.?

Because glycomacropeptide is a food ingredient currently
sold by two different companies on the market, it has already been deemed safe
for consumption. This makes Ney?s research a lot easier because there won?t be
a wait for approval by the FDA.

Ney applied for a grant Monday to conduct large-scale human
clinical trials. The request is for more than $2 million and will allow
researchers to test a diet with the new products on patients with PKU in four
different locations across the country.