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What Is Phenylketonuria (PKU)?

Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an inherited disorder of metabolism that causes an increase in the blood of a chemical known as phenylalanine.

Phenylalanine comes from a person's diet and is used by the body to make proteins.

Phenylalanine is found in all food proteins and in some artificial sweeteners. Without dietary treatment, phenylalanine can build up to harmful levels in the body, causing mental retardation and other serious problems.

Women who have high levels of phenylalanine during pregnancy are at high risk for having babies born with mental retardation, heart problems, small head size (microcephaly) and developmental delay.

This is because the babies are exposed to their mother's very high levels of phenylalanine before they are born.

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