No sweets, no milk, no eggs, no meat. For Oliver Simpson, protein is deadly – to the point he can eat no more than five beans baked in one sitting.
The two-and-a-half-year-old has an extraordinarily strict diet, being limited to just six grams of protein per day – ruling out the likes of meat, fish, nuts, milk, eggs and yoghurt.
This is a result of little Oliver having to battle an inherited disorder known as phenylketonuria – which inhibits his body from properly processing protein.
Also known as PKU, phenylketonuria is a particularly rare condition that affects just 50,000 people across the world. More specifically, it means Oliver is unable to break down phenylalanine – an amino acid found in protein rich food.
If his body can’t break it down, the consequences are grim. Phenylalanine would soon build up in Oliver’s blood, leading to possible seizures, tumours, brain damage, delayed mental development and eventually death. On a normal eating day, just six baked beans could trigger a reaction.
Oliver’s mum, Jade, from Kentish Town, north London, said:
I have to be really strict with Oliver and his diet. He doesn’t understand, as he’s so young, but eating the wrong food could lead to brain damage, or worse.
On Christmas day last year, Oliver couldn’t join in with the family and enjoy a traditional roast, packed with turkey, pigs in blankets and stuffing – instead he could only eat peas, carrots, sweetcorn or mashed potato.
He couldn’t dive into the usual festive selection sweeties either – while lollipops and hard sweets are okay, the same can’t be said for chocolates and confectionery with gelatine in them. Jade, 27, is also mum to Angel Rose, six, who doesn’t have the condition. Oliver was diagnosed with PKU following a heel prick test when he was five-days-old. Due to the constant concern over his condition, Jade is too afraid to let Oliver go to other children’s houses for playdates. The worry is that he could accidentally eat something that would cause his protein blood levels to dangerously spike.