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August 31, 2011 at 11:39 AMComments: 12 Faves: 0

Myth or Fact: Does Cranberry Juice Treat Urinary Tract Infections

By Bri Luginbill More Blogs by This Author

“Just drink some cranberry juice.”

That was what my mother always told if I got a urinary tract infection.  I accepted it as a fact. Now, if a friend is complaining of pain, I repeat the phrase to them without thinking much of it. But, what if my mother and I had been wrong? What if cranberry juice does nothing for UTIs? I lost count of how many friends and acquaintances I had shared this information with. I felt a little bad that I had never looked it up. I decided to finally do some research.

A Prevention Not a Treatment

It was really easy to find information about cranberry juice and UTIs. Both the sources I found explained that cranberry is not a treatment. The National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse explains that it can be used as a way to prevent UTIs in the first place. Cranberries are acidic and eating them affects the acidity in the vagina. When the vagina becomes more acidic, it is more difficult for bacteria to grow and live in that environment.

Placebo

On the other hand, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that there are no studies that link cranberry juice to preventing UTIs. It cited a clinical study where they gave a placebo to one group and cranberry to the other. Their research showed that there was no difference between the placebo and cranberry in preventing UTIs.

An article in the oxford journal referred to the first study done on cranberry and UTIs in 1966. After subjects went through cranberry juice therapy “53% of had a positive response and an additional 20% had a more modest benefit.” Unfortunately, 6 weeks after they stopped the treatment, the bacteria reappeared in a majority of the subjects. This article went on to reference more clinical trials that had been done over the years. The trials ended the same as the very first one. Either the cranberry juice had no effect or once the treatment stopped, the bacteria came back.

Myth or Fact?

So, what is the verdict? Myth or fact? From the evidence provided, cranberry does not treat UTIs, but it seems like they can help you prevent them…until you stop taking it. This doesn’t mean you should discard cranberry as an important fruit and nutrient. Cranberry contains antioxidants, such as flavonoids, anthocyanins and catechin. Triterpenoids are found in cranberries as well and are known to have anti-cancer properties.

Although, cranberries may not help treat UTIs or prevent them, they help our health in many other ways. Try integrating them into your diet. The benefits are worth it and the taste is delicious.

Source 1 Source 2 Source 3 l Source 4 l Source 5

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12 Comments

  • Some interesting facts about cranberry juice Although cranberry juice may help prevent growth of bacteria, its pH may be as acidic as 2.3–2.5, which is more acidic than most soft drinks, which could potentially dissolve tooth enamel over time. Also unsweetened cranberry juice has (per serving) 116 calories, 5 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 31 g sugar, 1 g protein. Cranberry coctail juice has 137 calories, 5 mg sodium, 34 g carbs, 30 g sugar, and 0 g protein.

  • ....but it's so yum!

    Also, if you follow Chinese medicine - bitter foods are meant to cut your sweets cravings.

  • Wow Beryl, thanks for the facts. I can't believe cranberry juice is more acidic than most soft drinks. What about just straight up cranberries or dried cranberries. Are they a bit less acidic? It's just because the antioxidants are so good for you. Also, I agree, Erin. They are yum!

  • never tasted it believe me lol...i have a good mind to do it soon though...:) nice talk there.

  • The study done in the 1960's that the oxford journal refers to was actually treating people with UTI's (they use the term bacteriuria), so the getting the UTI after stopping the cranberries has to do with what will happen if you try to treat a UTI.

    There was a Cochrane Review (Cochrane is an well know organization that looks at all known studies on a topic,to figure out what the overall evidence show) on cranberry juice and UTIs. They feel that the evidence favors women using cranberries for prevention. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15106157)

    This may be useful if a women gets frequent UTIs, but is probably not useful if a woman almost never gets UTIs.

  • Leave a comment...I agree the juice is good. But like all "processed " stuff...... human intervention screws it up!

  • Thanks Dr. Chamberlain for that source. Most everything I had found besides one source had said it didn't work very well, so I am glad there is another source to back up that it can help prevent them!

  • You know what's better than cranberry juice? Cranberries! Grind them up with some orange peel and a little lemon juice, add a touch of sugar (or honey), and you have amazing cranberry relish. Good for UTI? Probably not. Good for being whole fruit with tons of vitamins and deliciousness? Indeed.

  • Yum, cranberry relish sounds really good. Thanks, Seth. I will have to try that soon.

  • You have some some great research. I would love like to to see more recent data to see if changes in the overall diets of people in our day and time affect the medicinal properties of the cranberries. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  • I have to say as a woman who once suffered severe & recurrent UTI's that occassionally became kidney infections (from childhood through my early 20's) I swear by cranberries in all forms to both prevent & treat UTI. I used to have at least several UTI's per year & went to averaging zero per year. I then fell off the wagon when i was pregnant due to food aversions & got a UTI - then refused antibiotics & treated it only with drinking cranberry juice as my only fuids for 48 hrs - went back, redid the culture & infection was gone. I don't care I guess if it works for others or not in order to believe it - I have seen what it did for me. I have now been almost 18 yrs since recurrent infections AND the one time I got a postiive culture I had no symptoms and it was cleared up in two days. So I will continue to go that route since it has served me well.

  • Cranberries are a fantastic fruit and Rebecca, I absolutely love that you are reaching for the whole fruit. The actual cranberry itself, not the sugary juice, is where the benefit is found. Proanthocyanidins, a phytonutrient found within cranberries and grapes, not only helps our body to fight off inflammation thereby reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease, it may also play a role in bacteria. These phytonutrients may actually prevent the bacteria causing a UTI from sticking to the urinary tract in the first place. In other words, it may not be that extreme acidity at all. However, again the research is still needed to confirm this 100%.

    Regardless, cranberries are an excellent addition to anyone's diet. Thought to play a role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, digestive ailments, and perhaps even certain cancers. This vibrant fruit is rich in vitamin C, fiber, and packed with flavor - all for only about 50 calories per cup :)

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