A Western Australian mum-of-two has died after her high-protein diet lead to a fluid build-up in her brain that eventually killed her.
Meegan Hefford was found passed out on the floor of her apartment in Mandurah by a real estate agent who had arrived to inspect the property. Three days later she was declared brain-dead.
Doctors discovered that Ms Hefford was unaware that she had a rare condition called urea cycle disorder, which causes an enzyme deficiency preventing the body from properly breaking down proteins.
Ms Hefford’s mother, Michelle White, told PerthNow that her daughter had recently begun eating a high-protein diet, drinking protein shakes, and going to the gym twice a day to prepare for a bodybuilding competition in September.
As a result of the excess protein that she couldn't process, ammonia levels in her bloodstream eventually caused brain damage and death.
"I said to her, ‘I think you’re doing too much at the gym, calm down, slow it down’’, Ms White said.
Despite her intense training regimen, there was no indication that Ms Hefford was unwell.
"She didn’t look sick, she looked beautiful," says her mum.
Ms Hefford’s parents are hoping that their daughter’s tragic death is the wakeup call the fitness industry needs to regulate the sale of protein and other 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 be more regulated."
While her condition meant Ms Hefford's liver was too damaged to be of use, her heart, lungs, and kidneys went on to save four other lives.
This article originally appeared on New Idea.