For most recurrent UTIs, the most common treatment is antibiotics, but this poses a risk for the emergence of bacterial resistance. For this reason, home remedies for UTI have a strong appeal. Among all the tips and tricks on how to prevent and treat UTIs, cranberry juice is a big one. There have been multiple studies done on this debate, and they generally conclude that, while there is an ingredient in cranberries that can prevent adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall, most cranberry juices and supplements do not have enough of this ingredient to have a significant effect. The active ingredient that can potentially prevent UTIs is called proanthocyanidin, or PAC. Escherichia coli (E. coli) accounts for most cases of UTI.
One important property of E. coli is its adherence to the host tissue. The common hypothesis is that cranberries work to help UTIs principally by preventing the adhesion of certain strains from E. coli to the urothelium, which lines the urinary tract. (1) Without adhesion, the bacteria cannot infect this mucosal surface. However, multiple studies over the years have found that grocery store cranberry juice generally does not have enough of the active ingredient to be effective in preventing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. An article by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, citing multiple studies done on cranberry’s effectiveness, observed a general reduction in the likelihood of UTIs for all patients receiving cranberry products; however, recommended doses of cranberry products for the UTI prevention have been poorly defined, and beverage formulations vary widely. (2) Basically, people would need to consume a lot of pure cranberry in order to prevent an infection. Everyone also reacts differently to supplements and juice because of cost, taste, and gastrointestinal intolerance.
Researchers recommend that future studies should focus on PAC, the active compound in cranberries, instead of the whole fruit. Until more concrete research on this ingredient has been done, consuming cranberries won’t hurt, and probiotics can always be used as a safe natural option for the prevention of UTIs. You can learn more about this in our article on how probiotics help prevent and treat UTIs.
In conclusion, cranberry juice from the grocery store won’t be able to treat a UTI, but it won’t hurt, either. Cranberry juice offers hydration and possibly washes bacteria from the body more effectively, but the active ingredient will be long gone by the time it reaches the urethral region.
*Reviewed and approved by Dr. Rob Lapporte
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Hisano, M., Bruschini, H., Nicodemo, A. C., & Srougi, M. (2012). Cranberries and lower urinary tract infection prevention. Clinics (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 67(6), 661–668. doi:10.6061/clinics/2012(06)18
Hisano, M., Bruschini, H., Nicodemo, A. C., & Srougi, M.