After an Australian bodybuilder’s death in June, her high-protein diet is being linked to her death.
Meegan Hefford was 25 when her health rapidly deteriorated, according to Australian newspaper Perth Now. After being hospitalized, Hefford was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition that affects the urea cycle. Urea cycle disorder prevents the removal of protein waste from the body. The waste accumulates in the form of ammonia and can travel to the brain, causing coma or death, according to the National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation.
The woman’s death certificate lists “intake of bodybuilding supplements” as a partial cause of her death, according to Perth Now.
Hefford consumed protein shakes, as well as lean meat, egg whites and other protein-rich foods as part of her diet regimen in preparation for bodybuilding competitions, the paper.
Never miss a local story.
Hefford’s mother, Michelle White, expressed shock and dismay when recalling her daughter’s hospitalization to the newspaper.
“I couldn’t believe what the doctors were telling me,” White said. “She was dying. I said, ‘You have to give her more time,’ because she didn’t look sick. She looked beautiful.”
The National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation reports that up to 20 percent of deaths caused by sudden infant death syndrome may be caused by a metabolic issue like urea cycle disorder.
Symptoms can occur at any stage. Young babies with extreme urea cycle disorder may refuse to eat, breathe rapidly, vomit or be drowsy.
Though rare, the foundation says the incidences of the disorder are still underestimated. A study appearing in the National Institutes of Health estimates there is one baby born in the U.S. with the disorder for every 35,000 births. About 113 new patients of any age are diagnosed per year in the U.S.
Hefford was a mother and leaves behind a young daughter and son.