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Home > Vitafriendspku > Your pku journey > Alcohol and PKU

Alcohol and PKU


Having PKU does not mean that alcohol is off limits, it’s just important to be aware of the amount and type of alcohol you choose to drink and most importantly that you drink responsibly.

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Important Facts
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The legal drinking age in Australia and New Zealand is 18 years. Any protein contained in alcoholic drinks, needs to be counted.

Some diet mixers (I.e., colas, tonic waters), contain aspartame (E951) or acesulphame-aspartame (E962), which contain Phe and so checking labels is very important. To reduce health risks associated with drinking alcohol, Australian Guidelines state no more than 10 standard drinks per week for healthy adults (women and men). To prevent harm to their unborn child, pregnant women should not drink alcohol. 

The effect of drinking alcohol is the same for individuals with or without PKU. Alcohol, in any amount, can affect your body in some form. It can change the way your brain processes information and affects your ability to make decisions. In terms of PKU this could be in relation to food choices; for example, you may choose something to eat which could raise your phe levels.  

A useful standard drinks guide can be found here


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Measuring Alcohol Intake

In Australia, alcohol is measured as a “Standard Unit” or a Standard Drink.  

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Standard drinks can be a good way of knowing how much alcohol you are really consuming. Alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and different volumes. However, one standard unit or standard drink, is always equal to 10g of pure alcohol. 

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What Does 1 Unit Of Alcohol Look Like?
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To establish the amount of alcohol you are drinking in one drink, you can read the label on the bottle. However, if you are being served a drink in a glass or other unlabelled drinking container, you will need to ask the person serving you, or become familiar with an alcohol standard drinks guide.

A useful standard drinks guide can be found on the website



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Alcohol Choices

There are many alcoholic drinks, some contain protein. Therefore, as with other protein containing foods and drinks, these should be counted. Most mixers are low protein however some diet mixers will contain aspartame, so it is very important to check labels.

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Most mixers are low protein however some diet mixers will contain aspartame, so it is very important to check labels.

  • Drinks containing negligible or only a trace amount of protein:
  • Cider (dry, sweet and vintage cider)
  • Bottled shandy (Pub Shandy is stronger, contains significant amounts of phenylalanine and should be counted as an exchange – see below)
  • Martini (dry and sweet)
  • Spirits (whiskey, gin, rum, brandy, vodka, Pimm’s)
  • Wine (red, white or rosé)
  • Champagne and prosecco
  • Fortified wine (port and sherry)
  • Vermouth (dry and sweet)
  • Liquors (cherry brandy, Curacao)
  • Cocktails (those that include suitable spirits and mixers*)
  • Alcopops* (Hooch, Bacardi Breezer, Source, Metz etc.)
  • Ginger beer*

*remember to check for aspartame.

Drinks which will need to be included in your protein count -   

  • Beer - beer, brown ale, pale ale, lager, stout, and stout extra
  • Guinness/ Murphy’s  
  • Strong ales  
  • Cream liqueurs e.g., Bailey’s Irish Cream 

Drinks to avoid as they contain high levels of phe:

  • Advocaat (a rich and creamy drink made from egg yolk, sugar and brandy)
  • Cocktails that contain eggs e.g. Amaretto Sours or Pisco Sours

Alcoholic drinks that do not contain phe will not affect your blood phe levels, however, remember that the effects of drinking alcohol are the same for individuals with and without PKU.

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Important things to keep in mind:

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  1. Stick to the recommendations of no more than 10 standard drinks per week.  Aim to have several alcohol-free days per week and avoid binge drinking.
  2. Check labels for aspartame, and acesulphame-aspartame, especially diet mixers. 
  3. Consider protein content of food eaten when drinking alcohol. 
  4. Consider the calorie content of alcohol.  Alcohol is often referred to as empty calories; it has no nutritional value, but does contain a significant number of calories. 
  5. Never drink on an empty stomach.
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Tips For Reducing Alcohol Intake
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  • Aim to pour your own drinks, measure spirits rather than free pouring
  • Drink slowly and with food
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with water
  • Track your alcohol consumption
  • Aim for several alcohol-free days each week
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Learn more about PKU

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