Women should drink cranberry juice daily to reduce urinary tract infection

Drinking a glass of cranberry juice daily may reduce urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women, thus decreasing antibiotic use for the ailment, researchers including one of Indian-origin have found.

“Currently the primary approach to reducing symptomatic events of UTI is the use of chronic antibiotics for suppression, an approach associated with side effects and development of antibiotic resistance,” said Kalpana Gupta from Boston University in the US. “This study shows that consuming one 8-ounce (240 ml) glass of cranberry juice a day reduces the number of times women suffer from repeat episodes of symptomatic UTI and avoids chronic suppressive antibiotics,” said Gupta.

Researchers conducted a 24-week study of 373 women to find whether recurrent (or repeat) UTI sufferers could be protected from repeat infections by drinking cranberry juice.

Participants were all healthy women, with an average age of 40, who had experienced at least two UTIs within the past year. During the study, participants were randomly chosen to drink a daily dose of 240 millilitres of either cranberry juice or a “placebo” beverage without cranberries.

The rate of UTIs decreased significantly among the cranberry drinkers, with just 39 diagnoses during the six-month study compared with 67 in the placebo group, researchers said.

“The key to cranberry’s benefit is consuming a glass daily to help avoid the infection altogether. Most people wait to drink cranberry juice until they have a UTI, but once the symptoms start they will likely need a course of antibiotics,” said Gupta.

UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections in women worldwide. Up to 60% of all women suffer a UTI in their lifetime, and up to 25% experience a recurrence within six months, researchers said.

Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment for urinary tract infections, and women who have frequent UTIs may be prescribed low-dose antibiotics. However, chronic overuse of these drugs has increased antibiotic resistance at an alarming rate globally.

Cranberries contain a unique combination of compounds including Type-A PACs (or proanthocyanidins) that prevent bacteria from sticking and causing infection, researchers said.

In addition to PACs, new studies have shown a new class of compounds, xyloglucan oligosaccharides, which have similar anti-bacterial properties against E coli as PACs. This means there are multiple, unique elements within cranberries which are good for health, they said.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.