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Home HEALTH Experts question White Mulberry's role in the death of the congressman's wife

Experts question White Mulberry’s role in the death of the congressman’s wife

SACRAMENT, Calif. — Scientists, doctors and pathologists are challenging the Sacramento County Coroner’s conclusion that Lori McClintock’s death was related to white mulberry, a plant that has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries, and that consultant botanist of the coroner called “non-toxic” in a letter to his office.

McClintock, the wife of U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), died suddenly in December from dehydration due to gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, which was caused by “adverse effects of ingesting white mulberry leaves.” , according to a report from the Sacramento County Coroner. The coroner ruled the death an accident.

But Sacramento County Coroner Kimberly Gin did not explain, or provide records to explain, why she determined white mulberry leaf led to the dehydration that killed McClintock at age 61, fueling skepticism among a variety of experts.

A “partially intact” white mulberry leaf was found in Lori McClintock’s stomach, according to the autopsy report. But there is no other reference to her use of white mulberry leaves, supplements, extracts, powders, or any other method of ingesting the plant, in the documents released by the coroner’s office relating to the case.

“It would take literally bushel baskets of white mulberry leaves to cause any sort of adverse effect. And even then, you don’t see anything lethal,” he said. bill gurleyPrincipal Scientist at the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, which collaborates with academic, government, and industry officials to research and develop natural products.

Gurley, an expert on herb-drug interactions, called white mulberry leaf, which has been used for a variety of ailments including diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, “probably one of the safest leaves in the world,” and said that “its safety record is second to none”.

“I’m just scratching my head as to how on earth they could conclude that this lady died from ingesting, at least as far as we know, just one mulberry leaf,” he said.

dr Mary Hardywho founded the integrative medicine clinic at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and researched the safety of some alternative medicines and therapies for the now-closed UCLA Botanical Dietary Supplement Research Center, said the coroner’s conclusion ” It’s not convincing.”

“Proximate cause of death is not supported” by available records, Hardy said.

Gin, reached through Sacramento County spokeswoman Kim Nava, has repeatedly declined interview requests from KHN and has refused to provide information explaining how her office concluded a partial white mulberry leaf contributed to McClintock’s death. .

The leaves and fruit of the white mulberry, originally from China, have been used for centuries in traditional medicine. Academic studies over the last decade have found that the extract from its leaves can lower blood sugar levels and help with weightloss. People take it in capsule or pill form, as an extract, or as a powder. You can also eat the young leaves raw or prepare them as an herbal tea.

It is unclear how McClintock ingested the white mulberry leaf, whether he ate it raw or drank it in a tea, and where he got it from.

Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents a multi-county district in central and northern California, found his wife unconscious at their home in Elk Grove, California, on December 1. February 15, 2021, according to the coroner’s report. He has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

At his wife’s funeral in January, Tom McClintock told mourners he was fine when he spoke to her the day before she died. But according to the coroner’s report, the day before her death “he had complaints of an upset stomach.”

McClintock also told mourners that he “was on a careful diet” and “had just joined a gym.”

KHN obtained the coroner’s reportdated March 10, in addition to the autopsy report and death certificate, in July and reported the findings in August.

The coroner’s office tested McClintock’s body for the flu, other respiratory viruses and covid-19. none was detected. He also commissioned independent lab tests that showed McClintock’s body had elevated levels of urea nitrogen, sodium and creatinine, all signs of dehydration, according to five pathologists interviewed by KHN. Only one of them said that it was plausible that the white mulberry leaf could have contributed to the dehydration.

All of the pathologists said the publicly released coroner’s documents did not provide a complete picture of how McClintock died and did not include key details such as what the coroner’s office found in the home and whether McClintock might have been taking any medication. or supplements.

“The indication that there may be some dehydration is true. They don’t really have much else to go with,” he said. dr Gregory G. Davisdirector of the forensic division of the Department of Pathology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and chief coroner-medical examiner of Jefferson County, Alabama.

“I don’t know if the mulberry leaf necessarily played any role in the death,” Davis said, adding, like other experts, that it is not considered toxic.

“Looking at his autopsy results, he appeared to be reasonably healthy, and you really wouldn’t have expected him to die at this point. So that already made it a difficult case because it’s not obvious.”

dr James Gill, chairman of the College of American Pathologists Committee on Forensic Pathology and Connecticut’s chief medical examiner, added that it can take days for someone to die of dehydration. A single leaf, which had not been fully digested, a process that usually takes only a couple of hours, “would not have contributed to death,” he said.

“It takes at least a week or so for someone to die from not drinking from dehydration,” Gil said. According to available records, “there are some things that really don’t add up.”

Gill said he would have ruled McClintock’s death a natural death of unknown causes, which happened in about 5% of his death investigations.

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. Two cases of people who may have become ill from blackberry supplements have been reported to the FDA since 2002, according to its database that tracks “adverse events.” FDA spokeswoman Lindsay Haake declined to say whether the agency is investigating the case because it does not disclose the investigations.

After KHN broke the story about McClintock’s cause of death, the coroner’s office released a couple of additional documents, including on Dec 29, 2021, letter from Alison Colwell, curator of the Center for Plant Diversity at the University of California-Davis. The coroner had asked Colwell to identify the 1 1/8-inch by 1 7/8-inch leaf fragment found in McClintock’s stomach during autopsy.

Colwell identified it as white mulberry and concluded, based on its flexibility and “some green color,” that it was “probably eaten when fresh,” his letter said.

Although white mulberry trees are common in the Sacramento region, he noted that their leaves in December are “tough, yellowed and mostly fallen off the trees.”

Colwell also simply stated, “White mulberry is non-toxic.”

“I compared the specimen to lethally toxic species known to be planted or native to the Sacramento area and found no matches,” her letter said. Colwell declined an interview request.

The herbal industry, the dietary supplement industry and their allies have bristled at the possibility that McClintock died after ingesting supplements containing white mulberry leaves, let alone a white mulberry leaf itself.

“It’s been used for food, it’s been used for medicine,” said Rick Kingston, a clinical professor at the University of Minnesota School of Pharmacy. He is also the co-founder of SafetyCall International, a company that helps the supplement industry and other customers record and track adverse events related to their products.

The American Herbal Products Association, which represents herb growers and manufacturers, commissioned Kingston to review McClintock’s case. “I see a lot of autopsy reports,” Kingston said. “I have to admit this was pretty sparse in terms of supporting data.”

Several plant specialists also question whether the leaf found in McClintock’s stomach was white mulberry. Elan Sudberg, Executive Director of California alchemist laboratories, which tests botanical plants for the supplement industry and other clients, said Colwell’s letter lacks details of his evaluation of the leaf that would help others reading the report definitively identify it as white mulberry. Either that, he told her, or the leaf wasn’t white mulberry.

He said the coroner should release more information, reopen the case and run more rigorous tests.

“I would love to see a new test and understand why they concluded that he basically died from a dead leaf,” Sudberg said.

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthlineto a service editorially independent of the California Health Care Foundation.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces detailed journalism on health issues. Along with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the top three operating programs in KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.

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