A MOTHER has warned of the dangers of drinking too much water following the sudden death of her son.
Marie Rooney said her son Luke's tragic death had "broken the hearts" of the whole family and expressed the hope that it would raise awareness about the dangers of overdosing on water.
Luke McGuire (26), who had taken salt supplements, died after suffering a sudden collapse in the back garden of the family home at Oakley Road, Ranelagh, Dublin, on June 2, 2011.
Dublin Coroner's Court heard that excessive water intake had diluted the sodium in his system leading to swelling in the brain and his sudden death.
Mr McGuire was following a vegan diet developed by US alternative medicine advocate Robert Young and was taking salt supplements -- labelled 'Young Phorever pHour Salts' and 'Young Phorever PuripHy' -- purchased over the internet.
Analysis of the salts showed that they have no medicinal value but are harmless when taken as instructed. He also had a scheduled regime of very high water intake.
His mother Ms Rooney described him as "an especially beautiful person with wonderful qualities and huge potential".
She said the family did not believe his eating regime caused his death but hoped that the tragic incident would raise awareness about the dangers of drinking too much water.
"We think it is important that this be highlighted in order to raise awareness of the dangers of over-hydration, given the conventional wisdom that drinking large amounts of water is essential for good health.
"The Young Phorever salt supplement he was taking also played a role, not through being toxic in itself, but by disrupting his electrolyte balance which induced thirst and led to hyponatraemia," she said in a statement read out in court.
On the day of his death, Luke had complained that he did not "feel right", stopped taking the salts but continued to drink a lot of water.
The autopsy found he had suffered tonsillar herniation due to swelling of the brain, which pathologist Dr Ciaran O Riain attributed to hyponatraemia -- an electrolyte disturbance caused by lower than normal sodium levels. He said this may have been due to water intoxication and the salts could have been a contributing factor.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said he had consulted with a UK-based expert who confirmed that, although very rare, there have been cases of sudden collapse from water intoxication.
He said that the sequence of events leading to Mr McGuire's death commenced with the intake of sodium salts resulting in some degree of hypernatraemia -- elevated sodium levels -- causing intense thirst and water intoxication with dilutional hyponatraemia leading to acute cerebral oedema or swelling of the brain.
Dr Farrell recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.