UTIs and Cranberry Juice: Separating Fact from Fiction
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common health concern, particularly for women. One popular home remedy often touted for its potential benefits in preventing UTIs is cranberry juice. But is there scientific evidence to support this claim? Let's delve into the details and separate fact from fiction.
A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract, causing an infection in the bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis), or kidneys (pyelonephritis). UTIs can cause a range of symptoms including frequent urination, burning sensation during urination, lower abdominal pain, and cloudy or strong-smelling urine.
The Claim: Cranberry Juice for UTIs
The theory behind cranberry juice's potential benefits for UTIs lies in its high concentration of A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs) (2). These compounds are believed to inhibit the adhesion of E. coli, the bacteria responsible for 80-85% of UTI cases, to the urinary tract wall, thus preventing infection.
Several studies have investigated the potential benefits of cranberry juice for UTIs with mixed results.
1. Cranberry Products and UTI Prevention
A 2012 review of 24 studies found that cranberry products (juice and capsules) did not significantly reduce the occurrence of UTIs. However, subgroup analysis showed a small benefit for women with recurrent UTIs, indicating that cranberry might be more beneficial for certain groups.
2. Quality of Cranberry Products
Not all cranberry juices are created equal. Many commercial cranberry drinks are heavily diluted and contain a lot of sugar, which can actually feed harmful bacteria and exacerbate UTIs. For cranberry juice to be effective, it needs to contain a sufficient concentration of PACs.
3. Long-term Use of Cranberry
A 2016 study found that long-term use of cranberry capsules reduced the incidence of clinically defined UTIs in women. However, more research is needed to establish the optimal dosage and form of cranberry for UTI prevention.
The scientific verdict on cranberry juice and UTIs is still out, with studies showing mixed results. While cranberry products, particularly those high in PACs, may offer some benefits, they should not replace medical treatment for UTIs. If you suspect you have a UTI, it's essential to consult a healthcare provider for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Jayti Shah is a Clinical Nutritionist with a master's degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA). Over the last 9 years, she has helped 400 clients in their clinical and weight loss journeys. She works with SocialBoat as a nutrition consultant.
At SocialBoat, we offer custom diet plans and guided workouts to help you achieve your goals in a 360-degree approach. Our gamified experience ensures that you don’t find workouts boring and we reward you for being consistent with your efforts.
- Mayo Clinic. (2019). Urinary tract infection (UTI). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
- Howell, A. B., Botto, H., Combescure, C., Blanc-Potard, A. B., Gausa, L., Matsumoto, T., ... & Lavigne, J. P. (2010). Dosage effect on uropathogenic Escherichia coli anti-adhesion activity in urine following consumption of cranberry powder standardized for proanthocyanidin content: a multicentric randomized double blind study. BMC infectious diseases, 10(1), 94. https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2334-10-94
- Jepson, R. G., Williams, G., & Craig, J. C. (2012). Cranberries for preventingurinary tract infections. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (10), CD001321. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001321.pub5/full
- Maki, K. C., Kaspar, K. L., Khoo, C., Derrig, L. H., Schild, A. L., & Gupta, K. (2016). Consumption of a cranberry juice beverage lowered the number of clinical urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of urinary tract infection. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 103(6), 1434-1442. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/103/6/1434/4564598
- Stapleton, A. E., Dziura, J., Hooton, T. M., Cox, M. E., Yarova-Yarovaya, Y., Chen, S., & Gupta, K. (2012). Recurrent urinary tract infection and urinary Escherichia coli in women ingesting cranberry juice daily: a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 87(2), 143-150. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(11)00093-9/fulltext
- Foxman, B., Cronenwett, A. E., Spino, C., Berger, M. B., & Morgan, D. M. (2015). Cranberry juice capsules and urinary tract infection after surgery: results of a randomized trial. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 213(2), 194-e1. https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(15)00286-9/fulltext