Tragic death of boy, 16, from reaction to protein drink has changed my perceptions as someone who drinks them every day

Rohan Godhania, 16, of Ealing, west London, who fell ill after drinking a protein shake on August 15, 2020
Rohan Godhania, 16, of Ealing, west London, who fell ill after drinking a protein shake on August 15, 2020

Many of us enjoy doing the best we can to look after our physical health. Going to the gym frequently and watching what I put into my body are two things that have been increasingly important to me on my journey here.

A big thing to consider during this process is your protein intake. So as a result, I eat chicken for lunch and dinner and take two protein shakes a day to ensure my intake is where it should be.

As a young 16-year-old, this is something Rohan Godhania was considering taking up - only to result in his premature death in 2020. That must still be extremely devastating for his family and everyone who knew him.

Rohan Godhania and his mother, Pushpa Godhania
Rohan Godhania and his mother, Pushpa Godhania

After his death, Rohan was found to have suffered from Ornithine Transcarbamylase Deficiency (OTC) – a disorder that prevents the breakdown of ammonia. Ammonia is a waste product made by the body when digesting protein. Rohan's mum has since embarked on a campaign to have warning labels products added to these products - and the coroner who oversaw his inquest agreed.

Not only did Rohan live just down the road from where I grew up in West London, but he was also from a similar background. His tragic death - dying just two days after consuming a protein drink - has left me feeling extremely rattled and questioning my decisions.

Am I taking the right steps to protect my health and fitness? Are protein shakes bad? Do I have an undiagnosed health condition that could play a role here?

As with anything, there's always been an opinion that protein shakes can benefit your health in good moderation. But there is also some concern.

Countless people take protein like this every day and don't experience issues. But there is limited evidence to suggest any long-term impacts.

Shockingly, research used by Harvard University that was compiled by non-profit group Clean Label Project has found as many as 130 toxins in 134 protein powders including lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury.

Also, in the US - as protein powder is a dietary supplement and not a food - The FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to evaluate the safety and labelling of products.

It all weighs up to paint a cloudy picture of the best way to move forward. For many, protein powders are a necessary supplement that ensures good performance, muscle growth, and improved recovery.

For me, Rohan's death represents a humbling moment. Are we damaging our health by using unnatural products that we think are doing the exact opposite?

It's made me take a moment to think about the methods I'm using to improve my fitness.

I don't think I'm alone in thinking these methods have also massively helped to improve mental health. I've also been able to reach some of the goals I set for myself to achieve in the gym.

Much like other new products on the market, only time will tell of the exact impact of these products. I won't be eating six raw eggs a day instead to make up my protein intake but something tells me Rohan's tragic death could mark an important step in how many perceive these products.