There is an ongoing debate regarding the impact of phenylketonuria (PKU) and its treatment on growth. To date, evidence from studies is inconsistent, and data on the whole developmental period is limited. The primary aim of this systematic review was to investigate the effects of a phenylalanine (Phe)-restricted diet on long-term growth in patients with PKU. Four electronic databases were searched for articles published until September 2018. A total of 887 results were found, but only 13 articles met eligibility criteria. Only three studies had an adequate methodology for meta-analysis. Although the results indicate normal growth at birth and during infancy, children with PKU were significantly shorter and had lower weight for age than reference populations during the first four years of life. Impaired linear growth was observed until the end of adolescence in PKU. In contrast, growth impairment was not reported in patients with mild hyperphenylalaninemia, not requiring dietary restriction. Current evidence indicates that even with advances in dietary treatments, "optimal" growth outcomes are not attained in PKU. The majority of studies include children born before 1990s, so further research is needed to show the effects of recent dietary practices on growth in PKU.
Keywords: anthropometrics; growth; height; hyperphenylalaninemia; phenylketonuria; weight; z-scores.