Twenty-five year-old Meegan Hefford died from a rare medical condition due to which her body was unable to break down protein. Hefford, a bodybuilder from West Australia, was found unconscious in her apartment after which she was rushed to the hospital, where she died two days later.
Mother of two and a paramedic trainee, Meegan Hefford had been on a strict diet in order to prepare for a bodybuilding competition in September. She was consuming excessive protein in the form of shakes, supplements and protein-rich foods.
Hefford was unaware that she was suffering from an unusual genetic condition known as urea cycle disorder (UCD). Approximately one in 8,000 people have UCD, and many of them do not know about it. It causes ammonia to accumulate in the blood, which leads to a build-up of fluid in the brain, eventually causing brain damage.
Causes of death listed on Hefford’s death certificate consist of UCD and “intake of bodybuilding supplements”.
“I know there are people other than Meegan who have ended up in hospital because they’ve overloaded on supplements. The sale of these products needs to to more regulated,” said Hefford’s mother, Michelle White.
According to White, her daughter would visit the gym twice a day to gear up for the bodybuilding competition. In June, Hefford had begun to complain that she was felt lethargic and ‘weird’. At her house after her death, White found a detailed diet plan and a stock of protein supplements, which she was not aware her daughter had been consuming.
Hefford is survived by her two children: a seven-year old daughter and five-year old son. She has donated her heart, lungs and kidneys.
“Losing Meegan, it’s so awful and I still can’t believe she’s gone but I have to focus on the positives that at least I had 25 years with her and she jammed so much into her life, it’s almost like she knew her time would be short,” White said.
Experts advise moderate consumption of protein shakes and supplements, and warn against consuming them as meal replacements. As UCD is not a generally noticeable health condition, it is best to stay within the daily guideline amounts of protein. Recommended intake for adult men is 55.5g a day and 45g for women.
This story originally appeared on The Independent.