New research has shown that cranberry juice, though widely accepted and advised, may not be as effective at curing UTIs as we thought.
With 60 percent of women experiencing them at some point in their lifetime, urinary tract infections can be an unwelcome but common nuisance. Among the many home remedies and OTC treatments, the most well known way to prevent and ‘cure’ UTI’s has been to drink larger amounts of cranberry juice.
For years urologists have contended that there is an “active ingredient in cranberries that can prevent adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall, particularly E. coli.” However, most studies have shown that there isn’t enough of this active ingredient, A-type proanthocyanidins (PAC), within the cranberry to fight against bad bacteria. Additionally, cranberry supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s become hard to measure how much of an ingredient each supplement contains. This has led to conflicting studies on the effectiveness of cranberry on UTI treatment, as well as other ways future remedies might incorporate PACs into treatment.
During a 2012 Cochrane review, although cranberries did not reduce the occurrence of asymptomatic UTIs, cranberry juice was most likely able to reduce frequency of UTIs over 12 months.
Similarly, a new study from Texas A&M Health Science Center has concluded that cranberry juice not only offers hydration but can possibly help wash away bacteria from the body.
However, the study found that the PAC active ingredients in cranberry are broken down long before they can reach the bladder.
Furthermore, bacteria-fighting PACs “aren’t present in cranberry juice at all.” The study has shown it takes a large amount of pure cranberry and active ingredient to prevent bacterial adhesion. Researchers added that this amount may have been present in juices decades ago during our grandparents’ time, but are rarely found in modern day juice production. In short, the cranberry juice cocktail at the grocery store may not be of much help, but can be hydrating.
Yet all is not lost as far as treatment options for UTI’s. The study, published in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that pure cranberry within a capsule (equivalent to drinking 16 ounces of pure cranberry juice) was able to lower the risk of developing a UTI by as much as 50 percent. There was no mention of a similar capsule already on the market, but if concerned about urinary health and UTI recurrence, talk with you doctor about which treatment options may be best for you.
Kristina Brooks is a gluten-free digital editor at HealthCentral, with a background in animal biology, ecology, and health science. While studying broadcast journalism, she discovered the great need for health reporters that could translate research to the public. In her work, she hopes to use research to help consumers make smart decisions about their healthcare, and empower patients to stay confident and in charge of their chronic conditions. Kristina works on the HealthySelf newsletter, as well as HealthCentral’s MythWeek.