July 17th, 2012

Cranberry Products May Reduce UTI Risk


A combined analysis of previous studies suggests that cranberry-containing products may reduce the likelihood of urinary tract infections (UTIs). These results were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The urinary tract includes the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, and the urethra. Infections of the urinary tract are very common, and a majority are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra and then travel upwards.

UTIs tend to be more common in women than in men. Women have a shorter urethra than men, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. The opening of a woman’s urethra is also close to the opening of the vagina and the anus, which can be sources of bacteria. Factors that can further increase a woman’s risk of UTI include menopause and certain types of contraceptives, such as diaphragms, spermicides, and condoms.

Other groups at increased risk of UTI include people with spinal cord injuries or other nerve problems that affect the bladder, health conditions that interfere with urine flow, diabetes, or a suppressed immune system. Catheters (tubes inserted through the urethra to drain urine) also make a UTI more likely.

Cranberry products have long been used as a folk remedy to prevent UTIs. Cranberries may provide a benefit by reducing the ability of bacteria to adhere to the lining of the urinary tract.

To provide the best available information about the effectiveness of cranberry-containing products for prevention of UTIs, researchers combined information from previous studies on this topic. Information was available from 13 studies that enrolled a total of 1,616 people. Some of the studies evaluated cranberry juice and others evaluated cranberry-containing capsules or tablets.

  • Although results varied across studies, the combined result suggested that cranberry-containing products reduce the risk of UTI. Compared with nonusers of cranberry products, users of cranberry products were 38% less likely to develop a UTI.
  • Certain subgroups may be more likely than others to benefit from the use of cranberry-containing products. Groups that may be particularly likely to benefit include women with recurrent UTIs, children, cranberry juice drinkers, and people who used cranberry-containing products more than twice daily.

These results suggest that cranberry-containing products may help to prevent UTIs in certain groups of people. It’s not yet possible to make a definitive statement about a benefit of cranberries, however, because results of previous studies have varied. 

Reference: Wang C-H, Fang C-C, Chen N-C et al. Cranberry-containing products for prevention of urinary tract infections in susceptible populations. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012;172:988-996.

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Tags: News, Uncategorized, Urology