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Cranberry Drink or Supplement Reduces Risk of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections: Large meta-analysis finds

James Meschino DC, MS

A daily cranberry drink, or the intake of cranberry capsules or tablets, has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent urinary tract infections in a large meta-analysis study, published in the journal, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, in April 2017.

Recurring urinary tract infections is one of those nuisance conditions that can play havoc with one’s quality of life and these infections are much more common than most people realize. In fact, 1 in 2 women develop a urinary tract infection during their lifetime, and 20-30% of women go on to have recurrent urinary tract infections, which can be triggered by intercourse and other sexual activity, but are also common during pregnancy and in diabetics, and patients with multiple sclerosis, history of kidney stones, stroke and spinal cord injuries and any condition that affects normal urine flow. As well, the use of a catheter and weakened immunity also greatly increase risk of urinary tract infections. (1)

Urinary tract infections (or UTIs), are known to be the most common bacterial infection in humans in developed countries. In the US. UTIs account for nearly 7 million office visits and 1 million emergency department visits per year, resulting in 100,000 hospitalizations.

For pregnant women, urinary tract infections can pose an important risk to the mother and the fetus. Pediatric urinary tract infections can also become quite serious. For most adults, urinary tract infections can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but in some cases, it can move up the urinary tract and infect the kidneys, which is very serious, and/or can spread into the bloodstream causing life-threatening sepsis. (2,3)

So, the large, 2017, meta-analysis study on this subject, is quite important. In short, data from 1,498 women indicated that daily cranberry intake reduced recurrent urinary tract infections by 23%, as presented by researchers from Tufts University, UCLA and Biofortis Research at the Experimental Biology 2017 event in Chicago. They stated that limited data from sub-group analysis suggested cranberry was more effective when taken in the form of a cranberry capsule or tablet, where you are most likely to get a more concentrated dosage of the medicinal ingredients. (2)

However, a recent study involving the consumption of a cranberry drink (250 ml/day) showed a 27% reduced risk of UTIs recurrence in women who were recently treated with antibiotics for a UTIs. (4)

Closing Comments
Over the years, it has been shown that certain ingredients in cranberry, and cranberry extract capsules and tablets, can reduce the ability of E. Coli bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. This makes it easier to eliminate these bacteria during urination.

However, during an episode of a urinary tract infection, it’s imperative that to get it treated it with an antibiotic. Cranberry products appear to help prevent the recurrence of UTI’s but they can’t be used as the primary treatment of a UTI when one occurs.

So, the take-away message is that, if a patient is prone to UTIs, then using a cranberry drink or supplement each day may be a prudent way to help prevent the onset of future UTIs. However, during an active urinary tract infection, cranberry products cannot be used as a substitute for antibiotic therapy. Cranberry products can be taken concurrently with an antibiotic to help enhance the efficacy of the antibiotic treatment. It is also wise to consume a probiotic supplement concurrently with antibiotics to preserve the gut and vaginal microflora.

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  1. Fu Z, Liska A, Talan D, Chung M. An updated meta-analysis of cranberry and recurrent urinary tract infections in women. The FASEB journal April 2017. Vol 31 No 1 supplement
  4. Niemean KM, Dicklin MR, Schild AL et al. Cranberry beverage consumption reduces antibiotic use for clinical urinary tract infection in women with a recent history of urinary tract infection. The FASEB journal. April 2017. Vol 31 No1 supplement.
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