California Rep. Tom McClintock’s wife tragically died after taking herbal-based Chinese medicine designed to aid weight loss.
Lori, 61, had been wrapping presents ready for a Christmas party and had told her husband that she wanted to make 2021 “the best family Christmas ever”.
But Tom returned to Sacramento from Washington DC in December to find his wife laying unresponsive on the floor of their home in Elk Grove.
Tom said she had been trying to lose weight prior to her death, and now the autopsy report has revealed that herbal Chinese weight-loss medicine was the cause of Lori’s death.
“She just joined a gym,” said Tom, speaking at his late wife’s funeral.
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“At home, she was counting down the days to Christmas, wrapping all the gifts and making all the plans to make it the best family Christmas ever, and it would have been.”
He added that Lori had complained of an “upset stomach” before her death.
During the autopsy, white mulberry leaves were found in Lori’s stomach which pathologists say she could have taken as part of a supplement or consumed in diet herbal tea.
The white mulberry leaves are common in herbal weight loss medications and are widely available in a variety of forms. The leaves stop the stomach absorbing the nutrients in food properly but also cause severe dehydration, which ultimately resulted in Lori’s death, according to the autopsy report.
Pathologists found the leaf still “partially intact” inside her stomach.
Lori’s death highlights the dangers of herbal weight-loss supplements and teas which are extremely popular across America with those who are trying to lose weight.
The industry is worth around $54 billion and herbal products are advertised all over the net including by influential social media v-loggers.
Unlike with traditional medicines, herbal remedies are often not thoroughly tested and vetted, and individuals are left to ‘experiment’ with natural products that can have a very powerful effect on the human body.
Consumers can buy white mulberry leaf in a variety of forms including in powders, pills or raw leaves.
Once in the stomach, the plant slows down the body’s ability to absorb glucose, which can aid weight-loss but can also be very harmful as the body is unable to absorb water properly.
Dr. D’Michelle DuPre, a former forensic pathologist in South Carolina said that the leaves “do tend to cause dehydration and part of the uses for that can be to help someone lose weight, mostly through fluid loss, which in this case was just kind of excessive.”
Speaking on the Senate floor the spring after Lori’s death, Sen. Richard Durbin said:
“Many people assume 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.”
But natural medicine advocates have criticized those who have blamed the herbal weight loss leaf for Lori’s death. Daniel Fabricant, CEO and president of the Natural Products Association said that there is no proof that the dehydration Lori experienced was related to the leaves found in her stomach:
“It’s completely speculative. There’s a science to this. It’s not just what a coroner feels,” said Fabricant who was the chief of the dietary supplements of the FDA during Obama’s presidency.
“People unfortunately pass from dehydration every day, and there’s a lot of different reasons and a lot of different causes.”