Statistics read that 20 to 40 percent of women will have a bout of cystitis in their lifetime. Cranberry juice is the top recommendation when it comes to treating bladder infections. However, an analysis of 24 studies says that cranberry juice is not effective in stopping cystitis after all.
Whereas data estimates that one in 5 women will have at least one urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lives, a new study dismisses cranberry juice as being effective in the bladder infection treatment. Researchers with the University of Stirling analyzed 24 studies and found that the cranberry juice is effective only in a few select women. The rest of them would have to drink at least two glasses a day for a long time to actually enjoy some benefits.
Cranberry juice has long been recommended in the treatment of UTIs. For decades now, women drank cranberry juice being told that the compounds in the fruits will treat and then prevent bladder infections. However, in 2008 a study read that the cranberries’ actual health benefits aren’t all that many.
The 24 studies analyzed by researchers with the University of Stirling involved 4,473 people and wanted to find how effective cranberries are in UTIs treatment when compared to a placebo, alternative treatment or no treatment at all. There was only a 14 percent lower risk of UTI linked to cranberry compounds but researchers say it isn’t significant evidence.
“There might be a slight effect with the juice, but it depends on whether someone is prepared to drink cranberry juice twice a day for months on end to perhaps prevent one UTI” explained researcher Ruth Jepson. “It’s quite a commitment” she added.
In the meanwhile, there is a wide variety of cranberry-based products that are promoted as being highly effective in stopping cystitis. Seen as an alternative to antibiotic treatments that are likely to become ineffective on the long term in average doses, cranberry tablets and capsules have high sales. Researchers suggest that a study analyzing the actual effects of these cranberry products will help clarify exactly how effective the compounds are.
“More studies of other cranberry products such as tablets and capsules may be justified, but only for women with recurrent UTIs, and only if these products contain the recommended amount of active ingredient” lead researcher Ruth Jepsen added.
I have been doing research at Rutgers University for the past 20 years and have found that cranberries prevent bacteria from sticking to bladder cells, which is the initial step in the urinary tract infection process. I think we need to keep these latest findings in perspective with the totality of cranberry research that has been done over the last 100 years. This latest review analyzed results from some of the clinical trials, using criteria that apply to studies on drug treatments. Cranberry is a food that comes in different forms (juices, powders, dried, etc.) making it difficult to compare results from different trials because the same form and dosage of cranberry were not used in each study.
Interestingly, three new UTI clinical studies, published after this report was prepared, have shown significant benefits in children, with as much as a 65% reduction in UTIs and reduced use of antibiotics. Cranberries in many forms are enjoyed by millions of people globally on a daily basis. If women are currently consuming cranberry products, the results of this one review do not provide a reason for them to change their current practices. It is important that cranberry continue to be regarded and researched as a viable means to help address the public health challenge that UTIs and their treatment presents to antibiotic resistance. The effects of the studies are clinically important to the 15 million women in the US with UTIs each year. – Amy Howell, PhD