The devastated mother of a fitness model who died after taking protein supplements has said her daughter felt "weird" in the days before her death, but "didn't look sick."
Meegan Hefford, from Mandurah in Western Australia, was found unconscious in her apartment on June 19 and was pronounced dead days later.
Her mother, Michelle White, said the mother-of-two had started a protein-rich diet and had increased the intensity of her gym sessions in the lead up to a competition - unaware she was suffering from a rare genetic disorder that stopped her body from breaking down protein properly.
“I said to her, ‘I think you’re doing too much at the gym, calm down, slow it down,'” Ms White told PerthNow.
But the concerned mother said besides the 25-year-old feeling "weird" and tired, there appeared to be nothing else physically wrong.
She was found unconscious in her apartment on June 19, and was rushed to hospital where doctors discovered she was suffering from Urea Cycle Disorder.
“I couldn’t believe what the doctors were telling me, she was dying. I said, ‘You have to give her more time,’ because she didn’t look sick, she looked beautiful,” she said.
Ms Hefford, who was studying paramedicine and had a seven-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son, was pronounced dead three days later.
Urea Cycle Disorder affects one in 8000 people and caused a build up of ammonia in Ms Hefford’s blood and accumulation of fluid in her brain.
The 25-year-old had been competing as a bodybuilder since 2014, and was on a diet of protein shakes and eating protein-rich foods including lean meat and egg whites.
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"There was just no way of knowing she had it because they don't routinely test for it,” Ms White said.
"There's medical advice on the back of all the supplements to seek out a doctor but how many young people actually do?"
Ms White didn’t realise her daughter was on protein supplements until after her death when she found containers in her kitchen along with a diet plan.
She is now calling on protein supplements to be more regulated.
The Australian Medical Association says for the vast majority of people these supplements aren't necessary, and there's no real health benefit, but for most they're not dangerous either.
Doctors say a balanced diet is all you need.
Ms White hopes her daughter’s story will serve as a warning, and help save many more.