The subject of cranberry and urinary tract health is often in the news. There are often confusing reports about cranberry’s effectiveness in maintaining urinary tract health. In this article, we set the record straight on five myths about cranberry and urinary tract health.
Myth # 1: Cranberries work because they are acidic.
Cranberries have a long-standing reputation as a folk remedy for urinary tract health. Researchers used to think cranberries were beneficial because of their acidity. However, reasonable amounts of cranberry juice do not make urine more acidic. If acidity is not why cranberries work to keep your urinary tract healthy, how do they work?
Amy Howell, Ph.D., an associate research scientist at The Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research at Rutgers University, was the first scientist to discover cranberry PACs. Proanthocyanidins (PACs) are polyphenols which are naturally found in cranberries. Foods such as green tea, chocolate, apples, and grapes contain B-type PACs. However, the A-type PACs found only in cranberries have proven bacterial anti-adhesion activity (AAA).
E. coli is the most common bacteria that can cause urinary concerns. Howell determined that A-type PACs could bind to E. coli bacteria. When the E. coli bacteria bind to A-type PACs, your body can flush them out in your urine before any issue occurs.
Research indicates that a daily dose of these PACs can help prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract wall. If the bacteria cannot stick, it cannot cause a problem.
The bottom line:
Cranberries contain A-type PACs, which can bind to E. coli bacteria, making it easier for the E. coli to be flushed out in the urine before a problem can start.
Myth # 2: Only women can benefit from cranberries.
Many urinary health concerns begin when bacteria from the colon and rectal area enter the urinary tract through the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body. Bacteria are ordinarily present in the bowel of men, women, and children. In most cases, when bacteria enter the urinary tract, the flow of urine flushes out these bacteria.
Urinary tract concerns can be a consistent concern for women because they have a shorter urethra. The shorter urethra makes it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder since they have a shorter distance to travel.
While it is true that about 40-60% of women will experience a urinary tract concern at least once in her lifetime, and one in four will experience a repeat infection, it’s also possible for men and children to have urinary tract concerns. All those who have had a concern can benefit from using cranberries to help promote urinary tract health.
The bottom line:
Daily intake of 8-10 oz of 27% cranberry juice cocktail, or 1 ½ cups of fresh cranberries, or ½ cup of cranberry sauce, or 1 ounce of dried cranberry to help keep your urinary tract healthy.
Myth # 3: People with diabetes should avoid cranberry supplements.
There is a common myth that cranberries are high in sugar and carbohydrates. For this reason, many people with diabetes think they should avoid eating this delicious fruit for urinary tract health.
There are several ways to get the PACs from cranberry. As you can see from the numbers in the table below, eating dried cranberries or drinking cranberry juice supplies not only PACs but also calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. However, fresh cranberries can provide a lower calorie, lower carbohydrate, and lower sugar option.
|Food, Drink, or Supplement||Calories||Grams of Sugar||Grams of Carbohydrate|
|8-10 ounces of cranberry juice cocktail||109 to 122||18 to 21||28 to 32|
|1 ounce dried, sweetened cranberries||87||18||23|
|1 ½ cups fresh cranberries||69||6||18|
|Cranberry supplement||0 to 5||0 to 1||0.5 to 1|
The bottom line:
Choose fresh cranberries over dried cranberries or sweetened cranberry juice to get the health benefits without the additional sugar.
Myth # 4: Cranberries should only be consumed while you have a urinary tract concern.
Remember that cranberries cannot get rid of harmful bacteria. If you have a urinary health concern, visit your health care provider and follow their advice.
If you have had a urinary tract health concern, you may be concerned about your risk of having another one. Incorporating fresh cranberries into your daily diet routine may be an effective way to keep your urinary tract healthy and infections away!
The bottom line:
If you have a urinary tract concern, see your health care provider for guidance. You can eat cranberries and or drink cranberry juice along with taking an antibiotic to help keep the bacteria away. Continue to consume cranberry foods and drinks daily for ongoing protection.
Cranberry and UTI Prevention: Key Takeaways
Cranberry and urinary tract health, while sometimes controversial, is well-researched. 1 ½ cups of fresh cranberries are your best option for a low calorie and low sugar way to get in your PACs every day.
Legend has it that cranberry and a healthy urinary tract go hand-in-hand, and this is one bit of folklore that rings true.
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