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UTI? Don't reach for the cranberry juice

Cranberries may not be as effective in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs) as they have previously been thought to be.

Cranberries have garnered a reputation as being a super-food for preventing UTIs. But are these little red berries as effective as they are tart? To find out, a recent Cochrane review looked at 24 studies comparing cranberry products with other treatments.

On the whole, cranberries (taken as juice or supplements) were shown to be less effective for preventing UTIs than previously thought. Although a few small studies showed a small benefit for women with recurrent UTIs, when these results were combined with those of a much larger study no significant results were seen. What’s more, many people found cranberry juice difficult to drink, day after day, so simply stopped taking it.

Cranberries are known to contain an active ingredient which – at the right concentration – can prevent infection-causing bacteria (such as E-coli) from sticking to the urinary tract walls. What is not well understood is what the optimum concentration of the active ingredient is. A possible explanation for the poor performance of cranberry juice and cranberry containing supplements is that they simply don’t contain enough of the active ingredient to be effective.

The take-home message:

  • Drinking cranberry juice will help keep you hydrated – but it probably won’t help prevent a UTI.
  • Cranberry supplements might help prevent UTIs in some cases, but it is difficult to know if they contain enough of the active ingredient to be effective.
  • If you think you are suffering from a UTI, or experience recurrent UTIs, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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