Here We Go Round The Mulberry Leaf

The supplements industry is fighting back after Kaiser Health News broke the news recently that Lori McClintock, wife of U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif), had died late last year due to what the coroner called “adverse effects of white mulberry leaf ingestion,” specifically citing a “partially intact” white mulberry leaf found in her stomach.

Daniel Fabricant, chief executive officer and president of the Natural Products Association, who oversaw dietary supplements at the Food and Drug Administration during the Obama administration, told Kaiser the coroner’s report was “completely speculative. There’s a science to this. It’s not just what a coroner feels. People unfortunately pass from dehydration every day, and there’s a lot of different reasons and a lot of different causes.”



Kaiser said white mulberry is marketed to help with diabetes and weight loss.

MedPage Today noted that the supplement “is marketed largely as a way to 'support’ glucose levels, although a number of brands position themselves as weight loss or ‘appetite control’ supplements.”

The Kaiser story led to a slew of coverage in multiple media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times and NBC News, some sporting headlines like “Death of congressman’s wife points to dangers of dietary supplements.”

David Winston, founder and president of supplement manufacturer Herbalist & Alchemist, pointed out to WholeFoods Magazine that if Mrs. McClintock was “taking a supplement (capsule, tablet, tincture, extract 'granule') or a tea, there would not be any identifiable leaf in her stomach. Was she eating fresh or dried Mulberry leaves? If so, this is not a supplement.”  

Marketing Daily search of Amazon for “white mulberry leaf” turned up dozens of products, almost all of which fit the definition of supplements as described by Winston. A few marketers, however, were selling dried white mulberry leaves to be used for tea.

Liberal publication Daily Kos, meanwhile, seized on the mainstream news reports to accuse Mehmet Oz, Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, of helping to foment a white mulberry craze. The article included a 2013 clip from the candidate’s "Dr. Oz" daytime TV show in which Oz “promoted white mulberry as ‘the newest health sensation’ that will ‘dominate health food stores across the country.’”

Daily Kos added that “many sites that sell the stuff specifically cite Mehmet Oz’s 2013 endorsement as proof of its efficacy.”

The publication pointed to supplements distributor NutraBusiness quoting Dr. Oz’s recommendation that “white mulberry leaf extract can offset the occasional meal time indulgence” and online retailer GreeNoodle’s advice that “drinking Mulberry Leaf Tea is a great choice for those seeking to reduce high blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight.”

Citing a 2014 report from NBC News, Daily Kos said Dr. Oz’s “support of a product catalyzes and drives sales throughout what’s a huge and barely regulated market.”

In fact, supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but as food, not drugs.

A bipartisan U.S. Senate bill introduced in the U.S. Senate this past spring would make supplements a bit more transparent. The Dietary Supplement Listing Act of 2022, according to WholeFoods, would require companies to provide the FDA “with vital information about their products that would also be made public to Americans, including product names, a list of all ingredients, and electronic copy of the label, allergen statements, and ‘health and structure/function claims.”

The legislation is supported by such industry groups as the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, but opposed by Fabricant’s Natural Products Association and the American Herbal Products Association.

A final note: Every article we read about Rep. McLintock’s wife and white mulberry leaf, even Daily Kos’, said the supplement is by and large very, very safe.


Next story loading loading..