Heartbroken Australian mother talks about the potential dangers of protein shake and supplements after saying her 25-year-old daughter’s diet triggered an undiagnosed illness that ultimately contributed to her death two years ago.
Michelle White said that while her daughter, Meegan Hefford, had a passion for fitness after the birth of her first child, she developed an unhealthy obsession with it a few years later after her second child.
“She suffered from paralyzing post-natal depression”, White told Mirror.co.uk. “After seeing a doctor, she was prescribed medication, which helped – but there was a problem. The tablets won Meegan a stone [14 pounds] in weight.”
White said she initially supported her daughter’s efforts to return to the gym, but noticed within months it grew into an unhealthy obsession. White said Hefford got involved in bodybuilding competitions, which required her to maintain a strict high-protein diet. Each meal included a protein shake, as well as a variety of supplements.
“She was winning trophies for her sculpted physique, but one morning when I came by to see her and the kids, I noticed her hands were shaking as she swallowed another protein shake along with her bodybuilding supplements.” White told the media.
A few days later, White was taking her grandchildren out camping when she got a call from paramedics.
“By chance, two women who were carrying out a rental inspection had found her insensitive on the floor of her room”, White told Mirror.co.uk. “I rushed to the hospital to see my usually healthy and fit daughter lying on a bed covered with threads.”
Hefford was declared brain dead, and the family were told she had an undiagnosed genetic condition that impacted the way her body ingests protein. After Hefford’s death, White discovered that she and Hefford’s daughter also suffered from a urea cycle disorder, which had an impact on how the body clears ammonia from the bloodstream.
According to the National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation, patients with the disorder have a buildup of ammonia in the bloodstream, which can cause irreversible brain damage. The disorder varies depending on the severity of the specific mutation and its effect on enzyme function. For undiagnosed adults, viruses or other metabolic stressors such as high protein intake or strict diet can cause neurological disorders to suddenly appear.
White said after her daughter’s death she found high protein diets in her car as well as shelves full of supplements in her kitchen. She calls on the health industry to regulate these products.
In the United States, the FDA warns that while dietary supplements may be beneficial, they also carry certain risks, as the agency does not have the authority to review products for safety and efficacy before they. are not put on store shelves. The agency notes that there is a risk in combining supplements or taking too much without a doctor’s advice.
Additionally, an analysis conducted by Consumer Reports found that drinking three servings of protein shakes could expose consumers to unhealthy levels of toxins.
“I don’t recommend using protein powders except in a few cases, and only under supervision,” Kathy McManus, Registered Dietitian and Director of the Nutrition Department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital previously told Harvard Health Letter.