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Cranberry juice won’t treat urinary tract infections

Written by Diane Archer

Did your mother ever advise you drink cranberry juice to treat a urinary tract infection(UTI)? It turns out that it doesn’t work. A new study reported in JAMA finds that cranberries and cranberry products–specifically cranberry pills–are not effective in treating or preventing UTIs. It’s time we put the old wives’ tale to bed once and for all.

Millions of Americans get UTIs each year, including between a quarter and a half of all women in nursing homes. According to the National Institutes on Health, bacteria living in the digestive tract, in the vagina, or around the urethra are the most common cause of UTIs. Symptoms include a burning sensation when you urinate and the need to urinate frequently. While most UTIs are not serious, they sometimes can lead to chronic kidney infections, which can cause permanent damage to the kidney and high blood pressure.

Researchers tested whether cranberry pills containing the equivalent of 72mg proanthocyanidins in 20 ounces of cranberry juice could cure or prevent UTIs in nursing home residents. They gave a group of 147 nursing home residents two cranberry pills a day for more than a year to see if they would prevent bacteriuria and pyuria, two conditions that are present in people with urinary tract infections. They found that the people receiving these pills had “no significant difference” in bacteriuria and pyuria from the residents who did not receive the pills. They concluded that these cranberry pills have no clinical benefit and are not cost effective.

Here’s more from Just Care:



  • This is absurd. The study was done in a nursing home among debilitated patients. The study used capsules rather than juice, although juice has been shown in other studies to be more effective. The rationale was that these patients had swallowing problems, were suffering from urinary incontinence or did not like the taste. So even the capsules, which should be taken with water, were taken alone, again because of the urinary incontinence. The treated group still had better results in avoiding the most serious infections, but the study authors claimed this was not statistically significant. Finally, one of the authors is quoted in the New York Times as asserting that UTIs are the result of sexual activity. How does she explain the numerous UTIs that affect cancer patients who have undergone pelvic radiation and cannot participate in sexual activity due to vaginal stenosis? Please stop spreading this inaccurate information!!!

    • Cochrane is a non-profit independent organization that looks at the full range of studies on a given topic. On the topic of cranberries to treat UTIs, here’s what Cochrane’s review finds:”This review identified 24 studies (4473 participants) comparing cranberry products with control or alternative treatments…Cranberry juice does not appear to have a significant benefit in preventing UTIs and may be unacceptable to consume in the long term.” It further states: “Although some of small studies demonstrated a small benefit for women with recurrent UTIs, there were no statistically significant differences when the results of a much larger study were included.”

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