Contrary to popular belief, cranberry juice does not cure a urinary tract infection, a doctor says.
Many people drink cranberry juice in an attempt to ease their symptoms, but it will do nothing to help them, said Dr. Timothy Boone, vice dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Houston campus.
“Cranberry juice, especially the juice concentrates you find at the grocery store, will not treat a UTI [urinary tract infection] or bladder infection,” he said in a center news release.
“It can offer more hydration and possible wash bacteria from your body more effectively, but the active ingredient in cranberry is long gone by the time it reaches your bladder,” Boone said.
Each year, more than 3 million Americans have a urinary tract infection – an infection in any part of the urinary system, kidney, bladder or urethra, according to the news release.
The active ingredient in cranberries – A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs) – is effective against UTI causing bacteria, but is found only in cranberry capsules, not in cranberry juice, Boone said.
“It takes an extremely large concentration of cranberry to prevent bacterial adhesion,” Boone said. “This amount of concentration is not found in the juices we drink. There’s a possibility it was stronger back in our grandparents’ day, but definitely not in modern times.”
However, one study found that taking cranberry capsules reduce the risk of urinary tract infections by 50% in women who had a catheter in place while having gynecological surgery, he noted.
“In this study, they took the cranberry itself and put it in the capsule – the equivalence of drinking 16 ounces of cranberry juice. As you can see, it takes a large amount of pure cranberry to prevent an infection,” Boone said.
Where do I start? First, who claims that there is only one active ingredient in cranberries that helps treat or prevent UTIs? Foods are effective medicine because there are several compounds with synergistic activity typically found in plants. Certainly PACs, found in berries and grapes are of benefit, but it is the acidifying action of cranberry juice that is the greatest benefit. Which leads to my second point.
Cranberry juice is an effective treatment for UTIs that involve alkaline loving bacteria. So if the pH of the urine is well above 7 (neutral), then cranberry juice will be effective. However, not cranberry cocktail with added sugar. A simple pH test strip will tell you if the urine is indeed alkaline, so will a basic urine dip strip or urine analysis. Never drink cranberry juice if you have a UTI and acidic urine. You will only succeed in fostering the infection.
The Bottom Line:
Twenty-five percent of all new medications are based on naturally occurring plant life on our planet. Unfortunately, science continues to look (in error) for the one ingredient responsible for the health benefits of that plant. That way, they alter the chemistry and patent a “new wonder drug” that may still maintain some of the benefit. Usually that comes with a bunch of side effects as well. Cranberry juice is effective against some but certainly not all causes of UTI.
Source: February 25, 2016 National Institutes of Health