Cranberry Juice Helps Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

Summary
Drug formulations made out of cranberry have been studied over the years in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections. This review focuses on these studies in animals and humans and concludes that while cranberry cannot be used effectively in the treatment of urinary tract infections, it can prevent repeated attacks especially in young and middle-aged women. Some side effects that have emerged from the studies include stomach upsets and weight gain associated with cranberry intake.

Introduction
Urinary tract infections are frequent in adult females, who face a 50 times higher risk than men. Many women have repeated attacks and such relapses are often difficult to treat with antibiotics. Over the last few decades, many studies have evaluated the use of cranberry juice in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections. The effect of cranberries has also been studied on other human diseases like heart disease, cancer, tooth decay, stomach infections and even influenza. However, little is known about whether the regular intake of cranberry preparations can prevent the recurrence of urinary tract infections. Also, there are no concrete guidelines and recommendations about the regular use of these preparations in the treatment and prevention of such infections. This review analyzed previous studies to assess the exact benefits offered by these preparations in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections.

Methodology
For the purpose of this review, the authors looked at all reported studies in the English language in various medical journal databases between 1950 and 2008. They examined the chemistry and actual method of action of the cranberry preparations in urinary tract infections. Apart from this, they also noted the pharmacology, effectiveness, ideal dosing, side effects and tolerance of these preparations.

Key findings
* The results revealed that cranberry preparations cannot be used in the therapy of urinary tract infections. However, they can be used with success to prevent the recurrence of infections. This efficacy as preventive therapy has been shown in laboratory and animal studies.
* Large studies and reviews have revealed that the regular intake of cranberry juice over one year by young and middle-aged females reduces the rate of recurrence of urinary tract infections by 35 percent. Other gender and age groups do not show similar benefits.
* The studies have also shown that nearly 55 percent gave up on the therapy midway, which suggests that it may not be acceptable to patients. Side effects include stomach upset and weight gain. The cranberry preparations may affect the effectiveness and safety of other medications as well.

Shortcomings
The study author writes that cranberry preparations used in the studies that have been reviewed are variable. There is no standardized preparation of cranberry juice and thus the exact beneficial compound present in the preparation may differ in each of the studies. It is also known that there are multiple compounds present in cranberry and the exact mechanism of the preventive action of the preparation is yet unknown. Further studies on this aspect may be helpful.

Conclusion
Cranberry juice has been studied in detail over the past several decades for its effectiveness in the prevention and treatment for urinary tract infections. This review analyzed laboratory, animal and human studies from 1950 to 2008 to look at the exact benefits of these preparations. It is seen that cranberry cannot be used effectively in treating urinary tract infections. However, some studies show the benefits of this preparation in women who are at risk of repeated urinary tract infections. While some authorities like the Cochrane Collaboration support the use of these preparations in the prevention of recurrent infections in young and middle-aged women, this review does not agree. The author, on reviewing the previous studies concludes, “cranberry products cannot be recommended for the prophylaxis [prevention] of recurrent urinary tract infections at this time.”

For More Information:
Cranberry and Urinary Tract Infections
Publication Journal: Drugs, 2009
By David R.P. Guay; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.



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