There has always been some controversy regarding whether cranberry juice consumption actually reduced the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women or not. Part of the hesitation was due to lack of sufficient statistical power to provide definitive results from randomized clinical trials in the past. But now, a new study has compared the effects of consuming cranberry juice with that of a placebo beverage on the incidence of UTIs in healthy women with a recent history of a UTI.
The research design was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial involving 373 women (average age 41) at 18 research centers with a history of recent UTIs. The women were randomly assigned to consume either a daily glass of cranberry juice or a placebo for 24 weeks. There was a 98% compliance rate with 86% of the participants who completed the study.
Results of the study showed a 40% reduction of UTIs among women assigned to drinking cranberry juice compared to women assigned to drinking a placebo beverage.
Urinary tract infections are common and can be hard to treat due to rising rates of antibiotic resistance. Around 60% of all women will experience at least one UTI in their lifetime. Treating a UTI can be costly as they are responsible for around 10.5 million visits to the doctor’s office and emergency room visits in the U.S. and the costs associated with antibiotic therapy, visits to health care providers, lab testing and lost productivity. It is estimated that 25-35% of women diagnosed with a UTI will have another recurrence within 6 months.
What makes cranberry juice so special in treating and preventing UTIs? Studies have suggested that cranberry juice interferes with the attachment of bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract due to compounds found in cranberries called proanthocyadins. Cranberry consumption also appears to produce anti-inflammatory effects by reducing the proposition of asymptomatic bacteria progressing into symptomatic UTIs. The anti-inflammatory activity has the potential to prevent the development of symptoms and to reduce the severity of a UTI incident as well as preventing it from turning into a chronic infection.
The results of this study do suggest that cranberry juice consumption appears to be a wise choice for women to help prevent UTIs.