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Cranberries for UTIs.

It is estimated that one in every two women experiences a urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in her life. UTIs are more common for women because of their anatomy, but the risks increase for men over 50, particularly those with enlarged prostates. Most UTIs are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), typically found in the digestive tract. The use of cranberries for UTI prevention and treatment has been around for decades, but is there any truth to the claims?

Cranberry Compounds. Cranberries contain a mixture of anthocyanins, flavonols and proanthocyanidins, which have antiinflammatory properties that may lessen and help prevent symptoms of a UTI. In addition, proanthocyanidins combat the colonization of E. coli in the bladder by acting as a shield to prevent it from attaching to the bladder wall. The acidic compound hippuric acid, produced by the body when you drink cranberry juice, works as an antibacterial. The acid production was viewed as a primary benefit of drinking cranberry juice for UTIs, but it was found that the amount of juice needed to make enough hippuric acid to be affective can be up to eight glasses a day, so this reasoning has less support.

The Science. The research and opinion on cranberries as a treatment for UTIs is mixed. Several studies support that cranberry juice can reduce UTI occurrence, especially for women with a history of chronic UTIs. There are also promising results in studies on cranberry extract or capsules in reducing UTI occurrence. A recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that two cranberry capsules a day (equal to two 8-ounce servings of juice) reduced UTI occurrence by 50 percent in women following gynecological surgery. Evidence supporting cranberry juice or extract as a means of treating or healing a UTI is scarcer and a 2012 Cochrane Review concluded that there is not enough evidence to support any recommendations of cranberries for UTIs. The review is the most recent of its kind, since newer research reviews lack its scope.

The Bottom Line. Despite promising results from some studies, the debate among experts on the efficacy of cranberries for UTIs continues. Most support is given to the idea that cranberries may reduce frequency of UTIs in women with a history of chronic infections and cranberry capsules may be a more practical approach. Always consult with a doctor before increasing cranberry in your diet through juice or capsules, as it may interact with certain cardiac medications such as warfarin, dicoumarol, and anisindione.

--Esther Ellis, MS, RD

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Caption: Cranberry compounds may help prevent UTIs.

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Title Annotation:You Should Know; urinary tract infections
Author:Ellis, Esther
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2017
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