BODYBUILDER Meegan Hefford never thought that following a fad high-protein diet of egg whites and protein supplements could kill her.
But 25-year-old Meegan developed a disorder that stopped her from breaking down the massive amount of protein she was eating – and deadly ammonia flooded her body.
The mother-of-two suffered irreversible brain damage and slipped into a coma before being starved completely of oxygen.
At the time of her death, Meegan’s mum said: “After she died I found her diet plan. She was eating way too much protein over the past few months.”
Her death certificate listed “intake of bodybuilding supplements” as one of the causes of her death – and she was found to be following dozens of workout and diet pages on Instagram.
Now, a year on, YouTube star Dr Bernard has revealed the shocking case of a woman who has been left brain dead after performing a “soy sauce cleanse” as part of an online craze.
The woman, known only as CG, collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest due after drinking a litre of soy sauce, leaving her brain dead.
And shockingly, these women are not the only victims of online health hoaxes – here, Sun Online looks at seven of the strangest and most dangerous internet health fads.
The fat freezing treatment that promises thin thighs
Cryotherapy has been made popular by a whole host of celebs including Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford – who last year installed a chamber in his home to soothe his healing muscles.
The trendy treatment – which promises weight loss and muscle toning – involves entering a chamber cooled to temperatures of around -152 degrees and staying there for around three minutes.
Advocates say it can ease pain and inflammation and help people recover after periods of intense exercise or from joint and muscle conditions – and users can burn a whopping 800 calories in one 3 minute session.
However, in 2015 a US coroner ruled Chelsea Patricia Ake-Salvacion, who was found slumped in a chamber, had died from suffocation.
At an inquest into her death, the coroner stated that cryotherapy chambers can bring down the oxygen level to less than 5 per cent during treatments as liquid nitrogen is pumped into the room. This, in return, starves the brain of oxygen.
The coroner added: “Breathing air with this low level of oxygen can quickly result in unconsciousness and then death.”
The deadly cotton wool diet
In 2013, model Bria Murphy revealed there was a bizarre new dieting trend among her peers: eating cotton wool.
Speaking on Good Morning America, she said she’d heard of girls dipping cotton wool balls in orange juice, and eating them to have a false sense of being full.
The ‘diet’ has been widely discussed on internet chat rooms and in YouTube vlogs, and involves eating around five of the balls instead of a meal.
She added: “the cotton’s not doing anything. It’s just dissolving. And it makes you think you’re full, but you’re not.”
Worryingly, the body can’t digest cotton balls – so if people eat them then they stay in the stomach or intestines, mixing with mucus or other particles of food and causing a mass called a bezoar.
This can obstruct the digestive tract and lead to deadly infections.
Living on only air
This week, Birkenhead-based pizza delivery driver Khai Ho stunned the UK with his claims that he survived on one mint for months at a time.
He put this down to Breatharianism – a form of meditation which followers say helps them exist on air and natural sunlight alone.
The mad fad – which Sun nutritionist Amanda Ursell says is impossible to follow as it “defies the law of physics” – has grown in popularity in recent years.
Those who believe in its powers say the radical fast can help “cleanse them spiritually and physically”.
But there have been deaths.
In 2012, it was reported that a Swiss woman had died after embarking on a Breatharian diet.
In 1999, Australian-born Verity Linn, 49, was found dead in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands after attempting a 21-day fast in the name of Breatharianism.
Her diary recorded her last days as she refused to eat or drink, believing it would “spiritually cleanse” her body and “recharge her both physically and mentally.”
A fatal juice cleanse
Juice cleanses are now a major part of the internet-driven wellness trend.
But in June this year, a 41-year-old unnamed Indian woman – a fitness enthusiast with no previous health complaints – passed away after embarking on a gourd juice cleanse.
Drinking bottled gourd juice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is considered a remedy for constipation, diabetes and depression by some practitioners of alternative medication.
However, gourd juice contains a compound that can be toxic to humans, and there have been several cases of health complications and death in India related to it, the Times of India say.
Health practitioners in the country have since warned people to avoid drinking large amounts of the juice and to not consume it if it tastes bitter.
Organ failure from bee stings
In 2015, a 55 year old Spanish woman died after undergoing bee sting acupuncture.
During a session, she suddenly developed a severe reaction and was taken to hospital where she died from multiple organ failure.
It was thought she had suffered a massive stroke due to anaphylactic shock.
In 2017, actor Gerard Butler said he’d suffered a scary reaction to the treatment and went into anaphylactic shock after being injected with the venom of 23 bees in a bid to tackle muscular problems.
The raw goats’ milk diet
In 2017, a trend for drinking raw goats’ milk, also endorsed by Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP, was blamed by health inspectors for one of the UK’s worst ever food poisoning outbreaks.
Low Sizergh Barn Farm, in Kendal, Cumbria had won awards for selling untreated milk, which when not contaminated with bacteria is completely safe, and sold on average 70 litres of it a day.
But, in December 2016, 12 customers fell ill after coming into contact with campylobacter bacteria, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
Another 53 suspected cases were recorded due to drinking contaminated milk.
A US study from 2015 found raw milk makes people 100 times more likely to get ill than the pasteurised version, which removes bacteria.
They warned that the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems should avoid drinking unpasteurised milk, as they were more at risk of infections, which can lead to death in extreme cases.
Feasting on tapeworm eggs
A fad that has been around since ancient times, eating tapeworm eggs came back into fashion in 2013, when a US woman told her doctor she’d bought some off the internet and deliberately swallowed them to lose weight.
The woman, who by that point had a fully-grown worm wriggling around in her gut – needed to be de-wormed using special medication to kill the parasite.
Tapeworms can grow to a staggering 30 feet and cause malnutrition and even death by feeding off the body’s nutrients.
Pork tapeworm larvae can also infect the brain and lead to epileptic fits if they make it into the blood stream.
In 2015, Luis Ortiz from Napa, California, was urgently rushed to hospital to have a live tapeworm removed from his brain, which could have killed him in less that 30 minutes.
In the same year, a Colombian man died after the parasitic worms began breeding in his organs, taking over his cells and causing cancerous masses to form throughout his body.
In 2014 BBC presenter Michael Mosley took part in a toe-curling experiment where he allowed three tapeworms to live in his stomach for two months.
When tested, the show’s medical team found cysts that were twitching to show that the eggs were alive inside.
He later had them removed, but said it was clear that the tapeworms had “enjoyed” living inside him, and that he’d actually put on one kg as he had increased cravings for carbs and chocolate.
Jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon
For those who don’t have allergies, following a gluten-free diet can have devastating consequences.
In 2014, seven-month-old baby Lucas died weighing just 9lbs after his parents fed him an alternative gluten free diet, despite warnings it was unsuitable.
The baby, whose parents ran a natural food store in Belgium, was half the average weight of a boy of his age before he died and severely malnourished.