WEDNESDAY, Aug. 24, 2022 (Kaiser News) — Sacramento, CA — The wife of a Northern California congressman died late last year after eating a plant generally considered safe and used as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, including diabetes, obesityand high cholesterol, KHN learned.
Lori McClintock, wife of Representative Tom McClintock, has passed away drying Due to gastroenteritis – A ignition stomach and intestines – which were caused by “the adverse effects of ingestion of white mulberry leaves,” according to a report issued by the Sacramento County Coroner on 10 March but not immediately disclosed to the public. KHN obtained this report – along with the autopsy report and the amended death certificate containing the updated cause of death – in July.
The coroner’s office ruled her death in an accident. The original death certificate, dated December 20, 2021, listed the cause of death as “pending.”
Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents a region spanning across multiple counties in northern and central California, found his 61-year-old wife unresponsive at their home in Elk Grove, California on December 15, 2021, according to a coroner’s report. He had just returned from Washington, D.C., after a vote in Congress the night before.
It is unclear from the autopsy report whether Lori McClintock took food supplement It contains white mulberry leaves, eats fresh or dried leaves, or drinks it into tea, but a “partially intact” white mulberry leaf was found in its stomach, according to the report.
McClintock’s death highlights the dangers of the vast and burgeoning market for nutritional supplements and herbal remedies, which has grown into a $54 billion industry in the United States — one that both lawmakers and health care experts say needs more government scrutiny.
“A lot of people assume that if this product was sold in the USA, someone checked it out, and it should be safe. Unfortunately, this is not always true,” US Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois Democrat) said in a House Chamber The elders this spring when he introduced legislation to strengthen oversight of nutritional supplements.
Daniel Fabricant, CEO and president of the Natural Products Association, which represents the dietary supplement industry, questioned whether McClintock’s death was related to a dietary supplement.
It’s totally my guess. There is a science to this. It’s not just how the coroner feels, said Fabricant, who oversaw nutritional supplements at the FDA during the Obama administration. “Unfortunately people go through dehydration every day, and there are so many different causes and so many different causes.”
Fabricant said it would have been ideal if the coroner or family had reported her death to the FDA so that the agency could open an investigation.
These reports are voluntary, and it is not clear if anyone reported her death to the agency. FDA spokeswoman Courtney Rhodes said the agency does not discuss potential or ongoing investigations.
Fabricant added that the FDA has a system in place to investigate deaths that may be related to a supplement or medication. “It’s case work,” he said. “It’s old fashioned police work to do.”
Tom McClintock has remained largely silent about his wife’s death since he released a statement on December 19, 2021, declaring and paying tribute to her at her funeral on January 4. To date, the cause of death has not been reported.
Tom McClintock, contacted multiple times by phone and email Wednesday, was not immediately available for comment.
At his wife’s funeral, McClintock told mourners she was fine when he spoke to her the day before he returned. She had told a friend that she had been “successful” at a new job she liked at a real estate office in Sacramento, he said, “and was dieting carefully.”
“I just joined a gym,” he said. “At home, she would count the days until Christmas, wrap all the presents and make all plans to make it the best family Christmas ever, and it could have been.”
According to the coroner’s report, the day before her death, “she had complaints of an upset stomach.”
Sacramento County spokesman Kim Nava said via email Wednesday that the law prohibits the coroner’s office from discussing many details regarding specific cases. She said that as part of any investigation into the death, the office “attempts to identify and review medical records and speak to family/witnesses to substantiate the events that led to the death and its surroundings.”
Nava said that if any medications or supplements are found at the scene or if relevant information is in a person’s medical records, it will be passed on to a pathologist to help determine the cause of death.
“Any information obtained by the office from medical records cannot be released to a third party without a court order,” she said.
The leaves and fruit of the white mulberry tree, native to China, have been used for centuries in traditional medicine. Academic studies over the past decade have found that the extract from its leaves can lower blood sugar levels and aid weight loss. People take it in capsule or pill form, as an extract or powder. They can also brew the leaves as an herbal tea.
Laurie McClintock’s reaction seems unusual. No deaths from the white mulberry plant have been reported to poison control officials in the past 10 years, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
Since 2012, 148 cases of white mulberry plant ingestion have been voluntarily reported to poison control officials nationwide, most of them involving accidental ingestion by children age 12 or younger, said Caitlin Brown, the association’s clinical managing director. She said only one case required medical follow-up.
While poison control centers track exposure to the white mulberry plant, the Food and Drug Administration oversees dietary supplements, such as products containing white mulberry leaf extract. Since 2004, two cases of people infected with bilberry supplements have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration, according to its database that tracks “adverse events.” It relies heavily on voluntary reports from healthcare professionals and consumers. At least one of those cases resulted in hospitalization.
White mulberry leaves can have side effects, including nausea and diarrhea, according to research. Independent lab tests ordered by the coroner’s office showed McClintock’s body to contain elevated levels of nitrogen, sodium and creatinine — all signs of dehydration, according to three pathologists who reviewed the coroner’s documents, which KHN revised to remove McClintock’s name.
White mulberry leaves “tend to cause dehydration, and part of the uses for that could be to help someone lose weight, mostly through fluid loss, which in this case was somewhat excessive,” said Dr. de Michele Dupre. A retired coroner and former medical examiner in South Carolina reviewed the documents.
Dietary supplements, which include a wide variety of vitamins, herbs, and minerals, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, they are classified as foods and are not subject to the rigorous scientific and safety testing that the government requires for both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Lawmakers aren’t proposing putting dietary supplements in the same category as pharmaceuticals, but some say they are concerned that the FDA or industry doesn’t know how many nutritional supplements there are — making it nearly impossible for the government to supervise and punish the bad. representatives.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates 40,000 to 80,000 supplement products are on the market in the United States, and industry surveys estimate that 80% of Americans use them.
Legislation by Durbin and U.S. Senator Mike Brown (R, Indonesia) requires manufacturers to register with the Food and Drug Administration and provide a public list of ingredients in their products, two items supported by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, another industry group that represents supplement makers.
But the council has lobbied against a requirement that supplement makers provide consumers with the amounts of ingredients – or blends – in their products, something they say is like giving a recipe to competitors. Megan Olsen, the group’s vice president and general counsel, said this is only proprietary information that government regulators should have access to.
Olsen explained that supplement manufacturers are regulated just like other food companies and are subject to strict labeling requirements and inspections by the Food and Drug Administration. They must also inform the agency of any adverse effects reported by consumers or physicians.
“Companies test products throughout the process, reviewing how they are manufactured and what goes into them,” Olsen said. “It’s all overseen and dictated by FDA regulation.”
Dietary supplement provisions were introduced into a larger Senate Health Committee bill reauthorizing FDA programs, and senators are currently in negotiations with the House of Representatives. The Natural Products Association opposes all dietary supplement provisions.
Because cereals, teas, and other supplements are regulated as food products, manufacturers cannot advertise them as treatments or cures for health problems. But they can make claims about how supplements affect the body. So a person who wants to lose weight or control diabetes might reach for a bottle of white mulberry leaf extract because some dietary supplement makers advertise it as a natural remedy that can lower blood sugar levels and promote weight loss.
These types of claims are appealing to Americans and have been particularly effective during the pandemic, as people have sought to boost their immune systems and ward off the coronavirus, said Debbie Petitbein, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. .
But supplements can be dangerous and don’t affect everyone in the same way. Mixing supplements and prescription medications can exacerbate the problem, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
“I think a lot of people are thinking, ‘Oh, it’s a plant. Or, ‘Oh, it’s just a vitamin. Sure, said Petitbin, that means he wouldn’t hurt me. “But there is always a risk to taking anything.”
It’s not clear why Laurie McClintock takes white mulberry leaves. Friends and family gathered for her funeral described a happy, spirited woman who loved her family and her job and actually wrapped Christmas presents under the tree in mid-December. She was planning to buy a RV with her husband after retirement.
“We mourn the loss because of all the things she was looking forward to doing and all the years ahead,” Tom McClintock told the mourners. “And we grieve about something else, because we all lost a really good person in our lives.”
This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an independent editorial service of the California Health Care Corporation.