Recently, an Australian woman has died after consuming a high amount of protein from both foods as well as supplements. She was preparing for a bodybuilding competition and had upped her protein intake immensely. It turns out however, she had a rare disorder that doctors didn’t know about until it was too late. This rare disorder prevented her body from metabolizing the protein called urea cycle disorder.
She was an overall healthy 25-year-old, and earlier this year she had upped her workouts and put herself on a strict diet and would go to the gym sometimes twice per day. Her name was Meegan Hefford and her mom reported finding half a dozen bottles of protein supplements as well as a detailed plan outlining her high protein diet.
She was found unconscious on June 19th and was announced as brain dead by the 22nd. It then took another two days for doctor to diagnose her illness, which turned out to be urea cycle disorder.
The disorder affects about 1 in every 35,000 people in the United States and is an umbrella term for a series of rare genetic disorders. People with urea cycle disorder are deficient in one of the six enzymes that help remove ammonia from the body, which when it builds up in the body, can become toxic. When ammonia in the blood reaches the brain, it can cause irreversible brain damage or even death.
People can develop this disease as a child, and when it’s a mild case it can easily go undiagnosed, it’s when it’s a more severe case that it can cause death not long after the child is born. Adults can live many years without it being recognized.
Although Hefford’s case is extremely rare, it goes to show the potentially harmful effects of dietary supplements if you consume too many or have not been properly checked out by a doctor before hand. Generally healthy people often times don’t need supplements as they get everything they need from the food they eat. So when you add in supplements, it can be too much of a good thing.
If you’re thinking about switching exercise routines or starting a new diet, consult with an exercise physiologist or your doctor before hand – it could save your life.