Does Cranberry Juice Really Help Prevent UTIs?

March 3, 2021

It is an old tradition to recommend women to drink cranberry juice in order to help with problems related to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). With such a wide held belief on the benefits of cranberry juice with relation to UTIs, it begs the question: Does cranberry juice really help prevent UTIs?

Scientifically, there is mixed evidence on the relation between cranberry juice and the prevention of UTIs, and while some have called cranberry’s health benefits merely a ‘myth’, others have explored the scientific properties of cranberry to explain why or why not cranberry juice helps with UTIs. UTI development is common in women, and as many as 50-60% women can develop some form of UTI in their life, with an added risk in the case of pregnancy .

Cranberry supplements, cranberry extract, or pure cranberry juice can all help in the prevention of repeated UTIs in females, however the benefits are not as much as some may claim. Cranberry helps protect against UTIs in the same manner as other antibiotics [1], and with the added cost it may not seem like a worthwhile purchase to some women.

Moreover, another issue arises with the form in which cranberries are consumed and whether they have been altered with additives or other elements that can alter the health benefits of cranberries. It is believed that consuming cranberries or cranberry juice in their pure form can bring about the maximum health benefits. The addition of sweeteners in cranberry juice is common in store-bought cranberry juice for improving its taste, however additives can spoil the health benefits.
There is no scientific proof that cranberry juice helps with the treatment of UTIs, and so it should only be used as a healthy drink for prevention instead of treatment

It has been found that the benefits of cranberry juice start to take effect 4-8 hours after consumption, and so it is important to note that the prevention of bacteria from entering the urinary tract would not take place right after consumption. Apart from protection against UTIs, cranberries also have other health benefits such as protection against E. Coli, and scientific experiments showed that cranberry metabolites prevent the E. Coli virus from spreading. If E. Coli is not stopped from spreading, it can connect itself with other bacteria in the urinary tract, and lead to infections. While cranberry juice can help protect against UTIs, if any symptoms of UTIs are observed, it is best to self-test with a dipstick with products such as Urinox-10 test strips by Diagnox. If the test returns positive for the positive, then it is best to consult a doctor.

Cranberries contain A-type proanthocyanidins that helps protect against UTIs [2], however there is not enough of this active ingredient in cranberries for them to be very effective in treatment against UTIs. Based on the discussion of scientific evidence, it can be seen that while there is little proof that cranberry juice can treat UTIs, the presence of A-type proanthocyanidins in the fruit helps provide some form of protection against such infections. Therefore, the claims regarding health benefits of cranberries are not baseless, however the extent of the health benefits are limited.

[1] Jepson, R.G., Williams, G. and Craig, J.C., 2012. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (10).

[2] Howell, A.B., Reed, J.D., Krueger, C.G., Winterbottom, R., Cunningham, D.G. and Leahy, M., 2005. A-type cranberry proanthocyanidins and uropathogenic bacterial anti-adhesion activity. Phytochemistry, 66(18), pp.2281-2291.