An Australian woman died after consuming large amounts of protein from food and dietary supplements. And now her family is speaking out about urea cycle disorder, a rare genetic condition that prevented the 25-year-old from breaking down the nutrient properly.
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Meegan Hefford, a bodybuilder and mother of two, was found unconscious in her apartment on June 19. After being rushed to the hospital, Hefford was declared brain dead and passed away two days later. Her cause of death was ruled an “intake of bodybuilding supplements” in addition to the undiagnosed illness, Perth Now reported on Saturday, August 12.
Hefford’s mom, Michelle White, told Perth Now that her daughter had ramped up her gym activity and gone on a restrictive diet that included egg whites and lean meat to prepare for a competition in September. By June, Hefford was complaining about feeling “lethargic” and “weird” according to Perth Now.
“I said to her, ‘I think you’re doing too much at the gym, calm down, slow it down,” White said.
Symptoms of urea cycle disorder can include disorientation, confusion, slurred speech, unusual and extreme agitation, stroke-like symptoms, lethargy and delirium, per the National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation. The condition can occur in both children and adults, and can be treated with diet and medication, but oftentimes goes undiagnosed, allowing ammonia to build up in the bloodstream.
White feels the sale of protein supplements needs to be more regulated. “There’s medical advice on the back of all supplements to seek out a doctor,” White told Yahoo 7 News. “But how many young people actually do?”