Although cranberry juice and healthcare supplements including this fruit have long been hailed as efficient prevention strategies for women experiencing recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), clear scientific evidence has been lacking until recently, with a review study from 2012 of 24 trials arguing that there are in fact no benefits from such products.
However, a new global review led by Flinders University and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead that examined 50 more recent trials including over 9,000 participants has found that cranberry products do in fact reduce the risk of recurrent symptomatic UTIs in women by more than a quarter, in children by more than a half, and in individuals susceptible to UTIs following medical interventions by 53 percent.
“This incredible result didn’t really surprise us, as we’re taught that when there’s more and better evidence, the truth will ultimately come out. UTIs are horrible and very common; about a third of women will experience one, as will many elderly people and also people with bladder issues from spinal cord injury or other conditions,” said lead author Gabrielle Williams, a researcher at the Children’s Hospital.
“Even back in 1973, my mum was told to try cranberry juice to prevent her horrible and frequent UTIs, and for her it’s been a savior. Despite me niggling in her ear about evidence, she’s continued to take it daily, first as the nasty sour juice and in recent years, the easy to swallow capsules. As soon as she stops, wham the symptoms are back. As usual, it turns out that mum was right! Cranberry products can help some women prevent UTIs.”
Since untreated UTIs can move to the kidneys, causing pain and other complications – including sepsis in severe cases – prevention is crucial for reducing such risks. The studies Dr. Williams and her colleagues reviewed compared cranberry products with placebos or no treatments and provided positive results regarding such products’ efficiency and general lack of side effects.
However, the data did not show any clear benefit for elderly people, pregnant women, or individuals with bladder emptying problems. Thus, further research is needed to clarify which individuals struggling with UTIs would benefit the most from cranberry products.