Congressman's wife died of gastroenteritis after taking herbal supplement

Lori McClintock, wife of U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, died from dehydration due to gastroenteritis after taking a plant supplement, according to an Aug. 24 report from KHN.

Mrs. McClintock died in December, but her cause of death was just released to the public in August. 

She died from a dietary supplement that contained white mulberry leaf, which has been studied for the last decade. Studies have suggested that white mulberry has several positive effects taken in pill or powder form, according to the KHN report. 

The FDA has not issued any guidance on white mulberry leaves or extract, but has approved dietary supplements that include white mulberry extract. 

All products containing white mulberry are allowed on the market, and the FDA is allowed to investigate and regulate them after the fact. 

While supplements are regulated by the FDA, they are considered food, not drugs, so the testing is less rigorous. 

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, no deaths have been reported from the supplement in the last 10 years. 

While 148 cases of white mulberry ingestion have been reported to poison control since 2012, only one required medical intervention. 

Two cases of white mulberry sickness have been reported to the FDA since 2004, one leading to hospitalization. 

"I think a lot of people are thinking, oh, it's a plant. Or, oh, it's just a vitamin. Certainly, that means that it's not going to hurt me," Debbie Petitpain, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told KHN. "But there's always a risk for taking anything."

Taking dietary supplements can be dangerous, especially when mixed with other medications. 

"Many people assume that if that product is sold in the United States of America, somebody has inspected it, and it must be safe. Unfortunately, that's not always true," U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin told KHN. 

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