Experts Weigh In About Effectivity Of Cranberry Supplements And Juice To Prevent Recurring UTIs


A recent study has highlighted the potential benefits of pure cranberry juice and concentrated cranberry supplements in reducing the risk of recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in certain individuals.

UTIs are bacterial infections that commonly affect the bladder, kidneys, or urethra and are the second most prevalent infection in the body. Interestingly, MedlinePlus says that UTIs are more common in females, with four times as many cases reported in women compared to men.

The study, which was conducted by Australian researchers, was published on April 17 in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. They found that cranberry juice or supplements have the ability to reduce the risk of recurring UTIs in some high-risk women by around 25 percent, while for children, it’s more than 50 percent.

Some Prefer to Use Cranberry Products Instead of Antibiotics for UTI Prevention

The research team compared the results of 50 randomized clinical trials in existence on the subject, which altogether included almost 9,000 participants. What they discovered is that cranberry products were ‘more effective than probiotics at preventing UTIs in certain people,’ which also means that they can be a great alternative for those that prefer not to use preventive antibiotics. However, cranberry was not investigated as a treatment for existing UTIs, they explain.

Epidemiologist and senior lecturer in the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University in Australia, and a co-author of the new study, Jacqueline Stephens, PhD, MPH, says, “It is important that patients who currently have a UTI need to seek advice from a healthcare professional to discuss their treatment options, which typically include a short course of antibiotics.”

Cranberry Juice and Supplements Don’t Work for All

Moreover, the study found that cranberry juice and supplements don’t necessarily work to prevent UTIs in pregnant people, elderly people, or those that have bladder-emptying issues. However, for those with recurrent UTIs, or those hospitalized and therefore, at a higher risk of infection, one effective and natural preventive is the compound found in cranberries called proanthocyanidins (PACs).

According to an associate professor of urology at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis and the director of its pelvic floor program, Nissrine Nakib, MD, a number of experts claim that PACs work to prevent bacteria, such as E.coli – which is one of the most common causes of UTIs – from sticking to the bladder wall.

“There are so many contributing factors, including lack of estrogen and being immunocompromised, that put you at higher risk for UTIs. I tell my patients that if they are going to try a cranberry supplement, they should take one that is high in PAC,” Dr. Nakib says.

As for Dr. Stephens, she explains that ‘no clinical trials have evaluated different dosages, which means it’s still unclear how much cranberry, and what form, is best for preventing UTIs in some people.’

Dr. Nakib adds, “What makes it hard is that there isn’t a standard measurement for supplements. You would have to take 250 [doses] of some supplements to equal one of another.”

What to Look for in Cranberry Supplements for UTI Prevention

When looking for supplements, you’ll find that some list their PAC content in milligrams (mg) while others will list them as international units (IU). Regardless, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice them.

When looking for which cranberry products are best to prevent recurrent UTIs, Dr. Nakib suggests following a few guidelines. First, she recommends choosing supplements rather than using cranberry juice or liquid cranberry concentrate. This is because these products are normally high in sugar and can be dangerous for those with diabetes. Moreover, these products tend to be higher in oxalate, a compound that can cause kidney stones in those with a history of these types of growths.

Dr. Nakib also specifically recommends the supplement brand Ellura, because it is higher in PACs but lower in oxalate. Another recommendation is to drink plenty of fluids, mostly water, of course, to flush out the urinary tract and help lessen the chances of UTI reoccurrence.

She says, “Extra fluids in and of themselves will dilute any problems in the urinary tract.”