Bodybuilder died after eating too much protein

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
Photo credit: Meegan Hefford

From Cosmopolitan UK

A 25-year-old bodybuilder has tragically died after her body failed to process her strict protein-heavy diet.

Australian news publication Perth Now reports the death of Meegan Hefford - who was preparing to compete in a body-building competition in Western Australia where she lived - resulted from a rare genetic disorder which meant her body could not break down protein properly. This, coupled with her high-protein diet of egg whites and protein shakes, led to her untimely death.

Mother-of-two Meegan was a fan of bodybuilding and regularly ate lean meat along with egg whites and protein supplements while going to the gym twice a day in preparation for a competition in September, but unbeknown to her, she suffered from something called urea cycle disorder.

Posted by Meegan Hefford on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The condition meant that Meegan's body was unable to break down the protein correctly, allowing ammonia - a toxic waste product - to build up in her blood stream where it would eventually kill her. High levels of ammonia can poison a person's brain, leaving them with brain damage, and this was what happened to Meegan when she was pronounced brain dead just one day after doctors discovered she had the condition.

Back in June this year, Perth Now reports Meegan had complained to her family about feeling "weird" and lethargic. Her mother had noted her daughter's increased gym activity and put the tiredness down to this, but when the young woman was found unconscious in her apartment just a couple of weeks later by an estate agent, it quickly became clear there was something much more serious going on.

On June 19th Meegan was rushed to hospital, but by June 22nd she had lost all activity in her brain and died. On her death certificate, 'intake of bodybuilding supplements' is listed as one of the causes of death alongside the urea cycle disorder.

Posted by Meegan Hefford on Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Meegan's family donated her heart, lungs and kidneys to those in need of organ donation, but despite having been able to save other people's lives, for her family, it doesn't bring Meegan herself back.

They are now calling on the food supplements industry to be more careful about how they regulate intake of these products. "I know there are people other than Meegan who have ended up in hospital because they’ve overloaded on supplements," Meegan's mother Michelle White told Perth Now.

While tragedies such as this one are obviously unusual occurrences, given the rarity of the genetic disorder Meegan had, it does drive home the message that a balanced diet and exercise is surely the healthiest route for anyone to take when getting fit.

"This case is obviously tragic and illustrates that you may not know you have a health issue that alters the way you metabolise," said Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Omar Khorshid.

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