A low protein diet and a special supplement is an essential part of treatment of IEMs. People with IEMs can’t break down protein in the usual way, so the amount of protein in the diet is restricted. A special formula or supplement replaces the protein, minerals and vitamins that would normally be in the diet. Foods high in protein such as: meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, milk, other dairy, soy, tofu, legumes and nuts are too high in protein and must be avoided. An IEM diet is mainly based around a prescription medical supplement, fruit and vegetables (low in protein) with specialised low protein foods.
It is also important to avoid some artificial sweeteners which contain phenylalanine. These are used in some foods and medicine.
Specialised Low Protein Foods
To enable people with an IEM to adhere to a strict low protein diet, specialised medically modified low protein foods are available for purchase from specialist suppliers.
Low protein foods are not subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as they are classified as special medical foods and not prescription products, however, they are an essential component of treatment for IEMs.
The IEM Food Grant provides monthly financial assistance to people living in Australia with an IEM to assist with the financial burden of purchasing specialised low protein foods.
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Comparisons of a Regular Diet to a Low Protein Diet
Special medical low protein foods have limited national suppliers and the medical foods can cost in excess of 500% more than standard supermarket equivalents.