A female bodybuilder in Australia died eating a high-protein diet while suffering from a rare genetic disorder.
According to Australia News 7, Meegan Hefford, a 25-year-old Australian bodybuilder, was found unconscious in her apartment on June 19. Days later, she was pronounced dead.
It wasn't until after her death that her family found out she suffered from a rare genetic disorder known as urea cycle disorder, a disease which prevents the body from properly metabolizing protein.
"The enzyme deficiency can be mild enough so that the person is able to detoxify ammonia adequately — until there's a trigger," said Cynthia Le Mons, executive director of the foundation, per CNN. The trigger could be a viral illness, stress or a high-protein diet, she added.
In Hefford's case, the trigger could have potentially been a high-protein diet.
Hefford had been training for a bodybuilding competition, and according to Hefford's mother, Michelle White, Hefford was consuming "way too much protein," as her diet was skewed towards protein-rich foods and additional supplements and protein shakes.
It's unclear if Hefford exhibited symptoms of the disorder before her death.
"There was just no way of knowing she had it because they don't routinely test for it," said White. "She started to feel unwell, and she collapsed."
The symptoms of urea cycle disorder are often hard to recognize and can mimic flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.
While there is no known cure, a balanced diet is often all that is needed for most patients.
Urea cycle disorder occurs in roughly 1 in 8,500 births.