A young mother and professional bodybuilder is dead, and protein supplements popular with athletes are partially to blame.
The West Australian reports that protein supplements contributed to the June death of Meegan Hefford, a 25-year-old mom of two in Mandurah in Perth, West Australia.
Hefford was training for an upcoming competition when she was found unconscious in her apartment. Four days later she was declared brain dead. She leaves behind a seven-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son.
As part of her training regimen, Hefford was drinking protein shakes and eating a high-protein diet consisting of egg whites, and lean meat. While this is a common practice among bodybuilders, Hefford didn’t know she had a rare genetic condition that stops the body from properly breaking down protein.
According to Perth Now, the condition known as urea cycle disorder leads to a build-up of ammonia in her blood and fluid in her brain. The disorder affects one in 8,000 people.
Perth Now reported that doctors treating Hefford at Fiona Stanley Hospital were initially confused as to why the young, fit woman was rapidly losing brain activity. It took them two days to discover she had the disorder. She was declared brain dead the following day.
Her death certificate lists “intake of bodybuilding supplements” as one of the causes of death.
Meegan’s mother, Michelle White, told Perth Now that her daughter was an organ donor.
“Meegan has saved four people’s lives because of her heart, her lungs and kidneys,” she said.
Ms. White told the newspaper she hopes her daughter’s death will lead to more regulation of supplements and perhaps serve as a warning to others.
“I know there are people other than Megan who have ended up in hospital because they’ve overloaded on supplements,” White said.
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