Seven subjects homozygous for phenylketonuria (PKU) and seven normal subjects were administered four beverage regimens after an overnight fast: unsweetened beverage, beverage providing carbohydrate (CHO), beverage providing aspartame (APM), and beverage providing APM plus CHO. The APM dose (200 mg) was the amount provided in 12 oz of diet beverage; the CHO was partially hydrolyzed starch (60 g). Plasma amino acid concentrations were determined after dosing and the molar plasma phenylalanine (Phe) to large neutral amino acid (LNAA) ratio calculated. APM administration without CHO did not increase plasma Phe concentrations over baseline values in either normal or PKU subjects (5.48 +/- 0.85 and 150 +/- 23.0 mumols/dL, respectively). Similarly, the Phe/LNAA did not increase significantly. Ingestion of beverage providing APM and CHO did not significantly increase plasma Phe concentrations over baseline values in either normal or PKU subjects. However, ingestion of beverage providing CHO (with or without APM) significantly decreased plasma levels of valine, isoleucine, and leucine 1.5 to 4 hours after dosing in both normal and PKU subjects, thereby increasing the Phe/LNAA ratio significantly. These data indicate that changes noted in Phe/LNAA values after ingestion of beverage providing APM plus CHO were due to CHO. The plasma insulin response to beverage providing CHO (with or without APM) was significantly higher in PKU subjects than in normals.