It is no secret that urinary tract infections are common even among healthy women, and antibiotic resistance makes treating UTIs even more difficult. Finding a natural remedy would be ideal.
A multicenter trial was done involving 176 women who were divided into a cranberry juice group and a placebo group. The study started on November 16, 2005 and continued until December 31, 2008. The primary goal was to determine how long it would take for a participant to develop a clinically confirmed UTI. The rate of UTI development in both the placebo and the cranberry juice group were not significantly different, and the researchers concluded that cranberry juice was ineffective in reducing UTI risk. Looking a little deeper into the study we find a major setback: the researchers couldn’t get the sample size they needed to definitively show that cranberry juice had an effect because of administrative and budget issues. (1)
Another study was done that was double-blind and involved 319 women who had an acute UTI. Participants had cranberry juice or placebo twice a day, and they were followed by researchers for 6 months or their second UTI (whichever came first). They found that drinking cranberry juice offered no additional protection to developing a UTI. Looking deeper we find another flaw with the study. The researchers thought it was possible the placebo could have accidentally contained an active ingredient found in cranberry juice. The reason is that the rate of getting another UTI was half of what was expected according to literature in both of the groups! (2)
Is cranberry juice good for a UTI? Right now, we have 2 studies that say no, but a deeper look reveals they are seriously flawed.
A study was done involving 137 women who had at least 2 antibiotic treated UTIs or episodes of cystitis in the last 12 months. The women were at least 45 years old, and they received either cranberry extract or the antibiotic trimethoprim for 6 months. It was found that there was no significant difference in the time for the participants to have another UTI between the two groups, so the cranberry extract performed just as well as the antibiotic. (3)
A review of 10 studies where cranberries were used to prevent UTIs showed that in a 12 month period cranberries reduced the number of UTIs compared to placebo. Cranberries were also more effective than placebo at preventing UTIs in women who suffered from recurrent UTIs. The authors recommended that cranberries be recommended for prevention of UTIs in young women who suffered from symptomatic UTIs. They did not feel the data was strong enough to recommend for older women or people suffering from neurogenic bladder. (4)
So is cranberry juice good for a UTI? As you can see, the results have been mixed. The evidence seems strong enough to at least give cranberries a try to help prevent UTIs in women who suffer from recurrent UTIs.
1) Stapleton AE, Dziura J, Hooton TM, et al. Recurrent urinary tract infection and urinary Escherichia coli in women ingesting cranberry juice daily: a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clin Proc. 2012;87(2):143-50.
2) Barbosa-cesnik C, Brown MB, Buxton M, Zhang L, Debusscher J, Foxman B. Cranberry juice fails to prevent recurrent urinary tract infection: results from a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Clin Infect Dis. 2011;52(1):23-30.
3) Mcmurdo ME, Argo I, Phillips G, Daly F, Davey P. Cranberry or trimethoprim for the prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections? A randomized controlled trial in older women. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2009;63(2):389-95.4)
4) Vasileiou I, Katsargyris A, Theocharis S, Giaginis C. Current clinical status on the preventive effects of cranberry consumption against urinary tract infections. Nutr Res. 2013;33(8):595-607.
DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.