Cranberries Really May Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

It is now officially scientifically confirmed that cranberries have preventive properties against urinary tract infections.

Maria Zavialova

Cranberries have been utilized for centuries to ward off cystitis in women. However, a recent study by Australian scientists has provided scientific justification for these properties. Cystitis is a prevalent problem that is usually treated with antibiotics. Still, it can manifest into a chronic condition, persistently recurring over time. Conversely, urethritis is another disorder that affects men more frequently than women.

Furthermore, an untreated urinary tract infection (UTI) can potentially lead to pyelonephritis. It is a severe complication characterized by inflammation of the kidneys, which can cause sepsis and even death.

Why are cranberries so special?

Cranberries are particularly remarkable due to their active ingredients, which prevent bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder. Consequently, cranberry juice and supplements made from this berry have been touted as a natural remedy for preventing cystitis. However, a previous review in 2012 based on data from 24 studies found no conclusive evidence to support this claim.

Even back in 1973, my mum was told to try cranberry juice to prevent her horrible and frequent UTIs, and for her, it’s been a savior. Despite me niggling in her ear about evidence, she’s continued to take it daily, first as the nasty sour juice and, in recent years, the easy to swallow capsules. As soon as she stops, wham, the symptoms are back. As usual, it turns out that mum was right! Cranberry products can help some women prevent UTIs.

Study lead author Dr. Gabrielle Williams

How the benefits of cranberries were determined

The medical scientists at Flinders University and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide recently conducted an updated review to refine the existing data on the properties of cranberries. This comprehensive review analyzed 50 studies that included nearly 9,000 participants.

To determine the benefits of cranberry products, the researchers employed a range of methods. Most of the studies involved comparing cranberry products to placebos or the absence of treatment. However, the true benefits of cranberry products emerged when the researchers broadened the scope of the review to include the latest available clinical data.

We have shown the efficacy of cranberry products for the treatment of UTIs using all the evidence published on this topic since the mid-nineties. This is a review of the totality of the evidence and as new evidence emerges, new findings might occur. In this case, the new evidence shows a very positive finding that cranberry juice can prevent UTI in susceptible people

Senior Author, Professor Jonathan Craig, Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Medicine & Public Health at Flinders University

Results and conclusions of the researchers

Cranberries, whether taken as juice or capsules, have been found to reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in individuals with recurrent UTIs. The reduction is significant, at over 25% for women and more than 50% for children. In those who are prone to UTIs after medical procedures such as bladder radiation therapy, the reduction is as high as 53%.

What’s more, the incidence of side effects is minimal, with abdominal pain being the most commonly reported.

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. UTIs are horrible and very common; about a third of women will experience one, as will many elderly people and also people with bladder issues from spinal cord injury or other conditions.

Study lead author Dr. Gabrielle Williams

It is worth noting that the benefits of cranberry did not extend to elderly individuals, pregnant women, or those with bladder emptying issues. The researchers concluded that while cranberry does help prevent UTIs in women with frequent recurrences, further research is necessary to determine which UTI patients will benefit the most from consuming cranberry products.

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