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“This incredible result didn’t really surprise us, as we’re taught that when there’s more and better evidence, the truth will ultimately come out.”
That’s what Dr. Gabrielle Williams had to say about recent findings regarding the effectiveness of cranberry juice to avoid urinary tract infections (UTIs) in people who are susceptible to them, and who suffer from repeated episodes of these painful infections.
Centuries ago, Native Americans valued cranberries for bladder problems. And like me, you probably grew up with a mom who suggested drinking cranberry juice to avoid this painful condition.
But science has often scoffed at this anecdotal evidence, chalking it up to an old wives’ tale. That is, until now…
Proof cranberry products prevent UTIs
Dr. Gabrielle Williams, a clinical researcher and epidemiologist at the University of Sydney, led a research review that looked for evidence to back up the apparent effectiveness of cranberry juice in preventing UTIs.
Even though cranberry juice and supplements with cranberry have long been promoted as good prevention against UTIs — and even though lots of women swear by that — the most recent review of 24 clinical trials in 2012 said otherwise.
Thankfully, scientists from Flinders University and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead sought to update these findings…
After adding 26 new studies to the 2012 review, bringing the total number of studies to 50 with 8,857 participants — they analyzed results from trials of cranberry products compared with placebos, with antibiotics or probiotics and with no treatment at all.
Results showed that consuming cranberry products (in juice, tablet, or capsule form) was strongly associated with reduced risk of UTIs in women with recurrent infections.
There was a significant protective benefit noted among children, and among people at risk of UTIs due to interventions such as bladder radiotherapy. No significant benefit was noted for elderly subjects in particular.
Why does it work?
It’s estimated that about 90 percent of UTIs are caused by the bacterium E. coli.
Earlier research has shown that it could be the proanthocyanidins (a type of polyphenol) in cranberries that do the job, by keeping E. coli bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining. Cranberries, along with blueberries and chokeberries (Aronia berries) are among the few sources of this powerful polyphenol compound.
Preventing UTIs means less reliance on antibiotics
Antibiotics have their place. If a UTI goes untreated it can move to the kidneys and cause complications, including sepsis in very severe cases. But for women with recurrent infections, antibiotics can pose other problems…
E. coli is becoming resistant to our best antibiotic treatments. That’s one very important reason why prevention is so important.
There are a few other tips to help cut down on UTI risk…
First, get in the habit of urinating when you have the urge, rather than holding it in (yes, even at night). Studies have found that holding your urine in for a long time allows bacteria to multiply in your urinary tract, resulting in a urinary tract infection.
Next, wear loose-fitting, dry clothing. Loose-fitting clothes and underwear allow airflow that can help keep unnecessary moisture away to keep the urethra dry.
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Is cranberry juice really effective against urinary tract infections? — Medical News Today
Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections — Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Cranberry products can prevent urinary tract infections — Flinders University