Denise M. Ney

Billings-Bascom Professor of Nutritional Sciences

2015 Mary Swartz Rose Senior Investigator Award, American Society for Nutrition
2013 Rare Disease Hero Award, FDA
2012 Robert G.F. and Hazel T. Spitze Land Grant Faculty Award for Excellence
2010 Spitzer Excellence in Teaching Award
2000 Vilas Associate, Graduate School, UW-Madison
1995 BioServ Award, American Institute of Nutrition

B.S. 1975, University of California-Davis
Ph.D. 1986, University of California-Davis
Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian


Emphasis Group
Human Nutrition

Principal Research Interest
Nutritional management of phenylketonuria and gastrointestinal physiology

Research Summary:

Nutritional Management of Phenylketonuria.


Our research group has conducted studies in subjects with phenylketonuria (PKU) that establishes the acceptability and safety of foods made with the whey protein, glycomacropeptide, in the nutritional management PKU. PKU is a genetic disorder caused by deficiency of hepatic phenylalanine hydroxylase. This enzyme converts the essential amino acid phenylalanine to tyrosine.


To prevent brain damage and cognitive impairment individuals with PKU must follow a lifelong, low-phenylalanine diet that is restricted in natural foods. Glycomacropeptide is uniquely suited to the PKU diet as it contains minimal phenylalanine.  Skeletal fragility is a poorly understood complication of PKU.  Preclinical and clinical studies are being conducted to assess the impact of dietary protein source on bone health in PKU.


Check out the story of Dr. Ney’s research featured in GROW 2016 to use GMP to enhance the nutritional management of PKU and improve women’s health. This research has resulted in two patents held by WARF.

Video: Cheese, Glycomacropeptide, and PKU: A Translational Research Story (30 min)

Gastrointestinal Physiology
A recent finding demonstrates that GMP is a prebiotic with anti-inflammatory properties in mice.  Subsequent studies are addressing the impact of diet-inducing changes on the intestinal microbiota with respect to inflammatory bowel disease such as colitis, obesity, and bone health.


Research Publications, Nutritional Management of PKU with GMP

Click here, to see the Research Publications, Nutritional Management of PKU with GMP.

Representative Publications

Sawin EA, De Wolfe TJ, Aktas B, Stroup BM, Murali SG, Steele JL, and Ney DM.  Glycomacropeptide is a prebiotic that reduces Desulfovibrio bacteria, increases cecal short chain fatty acids and is anti- inflammatory in mice. Am J Physiol (GI & Liver) 309:G590-G601, 2015.

Ney, DM, Blank, RD and Hansen, KE. Advances in the nutritional and pharmacological management of phenylketonuria. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 17(1): 61-68, 2014.

Sawin, EA, Murali, SG and Ney, DM. Differential effects of low-phenylalanine protein sources on brain neurotransmitters and behavior in C57Bl/6 Pahenu2 mice. Mol Genet Metab 111:452-461, 2014.

Hansen, KE and Ney D. A systematic review of bone mineral density and fractures in phenylketonuria. J Inherit Metab Dis.   DOI 10.1007/s10545-014-9735-2, online 09 July 2014.

Murali, SG, Brinkman, AS, Solverson, P, Pun,W, Pinter, JE and Ney, DM.  Exogenous GLP-2 and IGF-I induce a differential intestinal response in IGF binding protein-3 and -5 double knockout mice.  Am. J. Physiol. (Gastrointest Liver Physiol) 302:G794-G804, 2012.

Solverson, PM, Murali, SG, Brinkman, AS, Nelson, DW, Clayton, MK, Yen, E and Ney, DM.  Glycomacropeptide, a low-phenylalanine protein isolated from cheese whey, supports growth and attenuates metabolic stress in the murine model of phenylketonuria.  Am. J. Physiol. (Endoc & Metab) 302:E885-E895, 2012.

van Calcar, SC and Ney, DM. Food products made with glycomacropeptide, a low- phenylalanine whey protein, provide a new alternative to amino acid-based medical foods for nutrition management of phenylketonuria. J. Acad. Nutr. Diet. 112:1201-1210, 2012.

Brinkman, AS, Murali, SG, Hitt, S, Solverson, PM, Holst, JJ and Ney, DM. Enteral nutrients potentiate glucagon-like peptide-2 action and reduce dependence on parenteral nutrition in a rat model of human intestinal failure. Am. J. Physiol. (Gastrointest Liver Physiol) 303:G610-G622, 2012.

Solverson, P, Murali, SG, Litscher, SJ, Blank, RD and Ney, DM. Low bone strength is a manifestation of phenylketonuria and is attenuated by a glycomacropeptide diet. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45165, 2012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045165

MacLeod, EL, Clayton, MK, van Calcar, SC and Ney, D.M. Breakfast with glycomacropeptide compared with amino acids suppresses plasma ghrelin levels in individuals with phenylketornuria. Mol. Genet. Metab. 100:303-308, 2010.

Koopman, MC, Chen, X, Holst, JJ, and Ney, DM. Sustained glucago-like peptide-2 infusion is required for intestinal adapation and cessation reverses increased cellularity in rats with intestinal failure. Am. J. Physiol (Gastrointest Liver Physiol) 299: G1222-G1230, 2010.

Ney, D.M., Gleason, S.T., van Calcar, S.C., MacLeod, E.L., Nelson, K.L., Etzel, M.R., Rice, G.M. and Wolff, J.A. Nutritional management of PKU with glycomarcopeptide from cheese whey. J. Inherit. Metab. Dis. 32:32-39, 2009.

van Calcar, S.C., MacLeod, E.L., Gleason. S.T., Etzel, M.R., Clayton, M.K., Wolff, J.A. and Ney, D.M. Improved nutritional management of phenylketornuria by using using a diest containing glycomarcopeptide compared with amino acids. Am J Clin Nutri 89:1068-1077, 2009.

Liu, X., Murali, S.G., Holst, J.J. and Ney, D.M. Whey protein potentiates the intestinotrophic action of glucago-like peptide-2 in parenterally-def rats. Am. J. Physiol. (Regul Integr Comp Physiol)_ 297:R1554-R1562, 2009.

Ney, D.M., Hull, A.K., van Calcar, S.C., Liu, X. and Etzel, M.R. Dietary glycomacropeptide supports growth and reduces the concentrations of phenylalanine in plasma and brain in a murine model of phenylketonuria. J. Nutr. 138:R316-R322, 2008.