Cranberry products (usually juice) have been used to prevent urinary tract infections; however, new evidence questions their role. This article investigates why.
For years, people have used cranberry products (usually cranberry juice) to prevent and help cure urinary tract infections (UTIs). This is because it is thought cranberries contain a substance that prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, which may prevent bladder and other UTIs.
Do cranberry products prevent UTIs?
Some earlier studies suggested that drinking cranberry juice could reduce recurrent UTIs but more recent evidence shows that the benefit is small. In a review of 24 studies (4473 participants) comparing cranberry products with alternative treatments, the authors found that there was a small trend towards fewer UTIs in people taking cranberry product compared to placebo or no treatment but this was not a significant finding (1).
In a review of 24 studies (4473 participants) comparing cranberry products with alternative treatments, the authors found that there was a small trend towards fewer UTIs in people taking cranberry product compared to placebo or no treatment but this was not a significant finding. (1)
- Many people in the studies stopped drinking the juice, suggesting that it may be unacceptable to consume in the long term.
- Cranberry juice does not appear to have a significant benefit in preventing UTIs.
- Cranberry products (such as tablets or capsules) were also ineffective (although had the same effect as taking antibiotics), possibly due to lack of potency of the 'active ingredient'.
- No single concentration of cranberry juice, extract, or supplement has been studied, so it's hard to know which product to choose.
- Many brands of cranberry juice have a high sugar content.
- If you do want to try cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, it's better to drink pure, unsweetened cranberry juice (rather than cranberry juice cocktail).
- However, many women complain of the taste of unsweetened cranberry juice.
- Drinking cranberry juice cocktail doesn't seem to prevent UTIs better than drinking any other fruit juice. (2)
- Using cranberry products to prevent UTIs may be expensive.
- Cranberries may interact with some medicines such as warfarin.
- Jepson RG, et al Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012
- Barbosa-Cesnik C, et al Cranberry juice fails to prevent recurrent urinary tract infection: Results from a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2011: 52(1): 23–30