A bodybuilding mum-of-two died suddenly after her body rejected her strict diet of protein shakes and egg whites. Meegan Hefford, 25, was rushed to Fiona Stanley Hospital in Western Australia in June when she was found unconscious in her apartment after an estate agent let himself in to conduct an inspection.
She was working hard in the lead up to a bodybuilding competition, unaware she suffered from a rare genetic disorder, Perth Now reported. Hefford had a diet filled with protein-rich foods, which she was also supplementing with protein shakes.
But she had a genetic disorder that stopped her body breaking down the protein she was eating. Urea cycle disorder, which affects one in 8,000 people, caused a build-up of ammonia in her blood stream and fluid in her brain which ultimately led to lost brain function.
Doctors struggled to work out why Hefford, a healthy, young woman, was losing brain activity when she was admitted to hospital on 19 June. It took medics two days before they diagnosed her with urea cycle disorder.
The young mother, who was studying paramedicine at Edith Cowan University, died a few days later on 22 June. She leaves behind a five-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter.
Her death certificate listed urea cycle disorder and the "intake of bodybuilding supplements" as two causes of death. Hefford's mother Michelle White said her daughter complained about feeling tired and "weird" in the lead up to her death.
"I said to her, 'I think you're doing too much at the gym, calm down, slow it down'," said White. She said she was shocked to learn how sick her daughter was after talking to doctors.
"I couldn't believe what the doctors were telling me, she was dying ... she didn't look sick, she looked beautiful," White said. Hefford's family are calling for more restrictions on the diet industry. They believe more warnings need to be put in place about the potential dangers of a high protein diet.
White added: "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."