I will confess my utter indifference to dietary supplements. I have noticed that they now occupy a full aisle of most supermarkets I patronize, but since I’ve never purchased or consumed any (except melatonin and perhaps the odd generic multivitamin) I’m in no position to discuss or evaluate their efficacy for any given ailment or condition, except to note that most of them seem exorbitantly priced. The U.S. market for dietary supplements has grown to approximately $50 billion annually, with herbal supplements comprising about two-thirds of that amount, a testimony to the enormous marketing effort promoting them to the public.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these substances, but because they are nominally intended to “supplement” one’s diet, they are not regulated as drugs, but as food. Still, the FDA’s website contains cautionary statements and outright warnings concerning consumption of some of these supplements, many of which contain ingredients “with strong biological effects which may conflict with a medicine you are taking or a medical condition you may have.” As explained in this research paper written for the American Journal of Public Health, while some of these products may yield benefits (real or imagined) to their avid users, the hard scientific evidence for clear health benefits from most of them is generally lacking. Further, the fact that they are only marginally regulated as food substances, but are ingested by consumers most often for medicinal or their alleged health-improving propensities (like OTC and prescription drugs) has prompted severe criticism of their usage, and accusations of under-regulation by many in the medical community. For example, the FDA also is not authorized to approve these substances for their safety, effectiveness, or even their labeling.

But a certain segment of medical practitioners takes an opposite view; they boldly laud or promote these supplements as potential cure-alls or treatments for various medical conditions, ranging from diabetes to weight loss to cancer. One of those practitioners? Mehmet Oz, a longtime New Jersey resident currently running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And one of the many dietary supplements he strongly promoted—white mulberry—has now been linked to the 2021 death of the wife of California Republican Congressman Tom McClintock.

On Dec. 15, 2021, Rep. McClintock found his wife lying unresponsive in the couple’s home in Elk Grove, California. McClintock, who had returned from Washington, D.C., for the congressional break, later stated that the day before, his wife, Lori McClintock, 61, had complained of an upset stomach. He also confirmed she had been “carefully” dieting. Her cause of death was originally “pending,” but now, according to Kaiser Health News which obtained a copy of the Sacramento county coroner’s report, McClintock’s cause of death has been clarified:

Lori McClintock, the wife of U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, died from dehydration due to gastroenteritis — an inflammation of the stomach and intestines — that was caused by “adverse effects of white mulberry leaf ingestion,” according to a report from the Sacramento County coroner that is dated March 10 but was not immediately released to the public. KHN obtained that report — in addition to the autopsy report and an amended death certificate containing an updated cause of death — in July.

[...]

It’s unclear from the autopsy report whether Lori McClintock took a dietary supplement containing white mulberry leaf, ate fresh or dried leaves, or drank them in a tea, but a “partially intact” white mulberry leaf was found in her stomach, according to the report.

White mulberry has had various benefits attributed to it; it’s even touted as a “superfood” on Mehmet Oz’s website. As seen in this September 2013 segment from his eponymous television show, Oz promoted white mulberry as “the newest health sensation” that will “dominate health food stores across the country.” Oz claims he “did his research” before he touts the benefits of the substance, which he says “fights high cholesterol and heart disease.” Significantly, Oz also mentions that “its leaves have potent sugar blocking properties” which make it appealing to diabetics and pre-diabetics.

What Oz does not mention? Those purported “sugar blocking properties” may also sound quite appealing to those who are simply dieting. As reported by Sophia Putka, writing for Medpage Today:

White mulberry is marketed largely as a way to "support" glucose levels, although a number of brands position themselves as weight loss or "appetite control" supplements.

[...]

Currently, white mulberry is common in soft-gel capsules, tablets, powders, and liquid extracts. It's available as an herbal supplement online or over the counter, or from practitioners of naturopathy, and traditional and alternative medicines.

Testimonies to the alleged weight-loss properties of white mulberry leaf by the herbal supplement industry abound on the web. Many sites that sell the stuff specifically cite Mehmet Oz’s 2013 endorsement as proof of its efficacy.

From nutrabusiness:

So what is this “next health food sensation” which Dr. Oz has been raving about and even called a “superfood”. White Mulberry leaf contains a substance called 1-deoxynojirimycen (DNJ) which alters the way some stomach enzymes absorb fat and sugars. This is great for people who have diabetes or want to lose weight. Taking white mulberry leaf extract can offset the occasional meal time indulgence, which is what Dr. Oz recommended.

From GreeNoodle:

Organic White Mulberry Tea (15 Tea Bags) Dr. OZ Recommends for blocking sugar...

...One of the most unique qualities of the Mulberry leaf is the prevention of excessive sugars from entering into the bloodstream. Therefore, drinking Mulberry Leaf Tea is a great choice for those seeking to reduce high blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight.

And as advertised on Amazon, Mulberry Slim:

SUMMER SALE on Mulberry SLIM - (AS SEEN ON DR. OZ) White Mulberry Leaf Extract Weight Loss & Blood Sugar Support Plus Garcinia Cambogia, Green Coffee Bean, and African Mango Extract by Natural Physician Sciences

Of course, there’s no evidence that Lori McClintock ingested the mulberry leaf based because she saw it on The Dr. Oz Show, or even as a result of being advised by anyone who watched it. She likely learned about it from simply been browsing the web for herbal or “natural” weight loss remedies.

But Oz’s public endorsement of such remedies and their subsequent marketing (or mis-marketing) touting Oz’s “recommendation” has been previously called out as creating what’s called the “Dr. Oz effect,” as NBC News noted in 2014. Essentially, his support of a product catalyzes and drives sales throughout what’s a huge and barely regulated market.

On Tuesday, during a Senate hearing on false diet-product ads, senators chided Oz for indirectly perpetuating ad scams. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, cited several examples. Oz called green coffee extract a “magic weight loss cure.” Raspberry ketone was “the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat.” He said Garcina cambogia “may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

McCaskill told Oz: “When you feature a product on your show it creates what has become known as the ‘Dr. Oz Effect’ — dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products.”

For his part, Oz acknowledges that his “enthusiastic language has made the problem [of scam products] worse at times,” but believes it would be a “disservice” to his viewers not to “have the conversation” about dietary supplements.

Except the “conversation” in this case is a bit one-sided. On the one hand there’s (as NBC News calls him) ”the nation’s most telegenic doctor,” speaking with the imprimatur of authority about medical matters. And on the other, there’s an audience of wholly unsophisticated, unquestioning consumers, both in the studio and watching on millions of screens.

At least one doctor interviewed by NBC News was less than impressed with Oz’s position.

“He’s well aware that these companies are promoting things without any evidence of (benefits), but he doesn’t do anything to preempt it,” said Dr. Eric J. Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, California.

“He can claim it’s all done unwittingly, or unknowingly, and that these things are being taken out of context. But his own shows demonstrate that is not that case,” Topol added. “This has been perpetuated for a long time. These things he calls 'miracles,' for example. What do you think is going to happen when you call something a miracle and there is absolutely no evidence?”

In the case of white mulberry leaf, side effects are very rare, limited in one study to “mild diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and dizziness.” Assuming the Sacramento County coroner’s office is correct in its assessment, Ms. McClintock’s death appears to be a case of one susceptible person having an extreme, unexpected and unfortunate reaction to a product that just happens to be fairly unregulated … a product that was also once celebrated on national TV by a celebrity doctor-turned-Senate-candidate, who claimed it was “the newest health sensation.”

Editor’s Note: This story’s headline has been changed.

Mehmet Oz has no business representing the people of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate. Will you help Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeat him in November?

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31.08.2022

I will confess my utter indifference to dietary supplements. I have noticed that they now occupy a full aisle of most supermarkets I patronize, but since I’ve never purchased or consumed any (except melatonin and perhaps the odd generic multivitamin) I’m in no position to discuss or evaluate their efficacy for any given ailment or condition, except to note that most of them seem exorbitantly priced. The U.S. market for dietary supplements has grown to approximately $50 billion annually, with herbal supplements comprising about two-thirds of that amount, a testimony to the enormous marketing effort promoting them to the public.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these substances, but because they are nominally intended to “supplement” one’s diet, they are not regulated as drugs, but as food. Still, the FDA’s website contains cautionary statements and outright warnings concerning consumption of some of these supplements, many of which contain ingredients “with strong biological effects which may conflict with a medicine you are taking or a medical condition you may have.” As explained in this research paper written for the American Journal of Public Health, while some of these products may yield benefits (real or imagined) to their avid users, the hard scientific evidence for clear health benefits from most of them is generally lacking. Further, the fact that they are only marginally regulated as food substances, but are ingested by consumers most often for medicinal or their alleged health-improving propensities (like OTC and prescription drugs) has prompted severe criticism of their usage, and accusations of under-regulation by many in the medical community. For example, the FDA also is not authorized to approve these substances for their safety, effectiveness, or even their labeling.

But a certain segment of medical practitioners takes an opposite view; they boldly laud or promote these supplements as potential cure-alls or treatments for various medical conditions, ranging from diabetes to weight loss to cancer. One of those practitioners? Mehmet Oz, a longtime New Jersey resident currently running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And one of the many dietary supplements he strongly promoted—white mulberry—has now been linked to the 2021 death of the wife of California Republican Congressman Tom McClintock.

On Dec. 15, 2021, Rep. McClintock found his wife........

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