Cranberry for Urinary Tract Health
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are the second most common infection that affects women, and the second leading cause of lost work days. Men can also get UTIs. Those with an enlarged prostate, diabetes, or cancer and those under stress are at increased risk. The symptoms—urinary burning, frequency, urgency and pain—are unpleasant and the typical treatment is expensive and associated with health risks. But there is a natural food-derived supplement that can help prevent UTIs and even halt an infection in the early stages.
Cost-Effective Treatment and Prevention
Treatment of a UTI most often involves antibiotic therapy, which carries with it various health and societal risks. Side effects include nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and yeast infections, to name a few. Plus, the overuse of antibiotics is now recognized as a major factor in the development of resistance—the bugs are becoming stronger than the drugs, leaving people vulnerable for attack by bacteria. Antibiotics are also expensive. Some of the new drugs can set you back $60 or more for a weeks supply. As with most health problems, prevention is the key.
Cranberry and Bladder Health
Over the past few decades, several clinical studies have found cranberry juice beneficial in preventing UTI. A drawback however, is that the amount of juice required to exert this effect is quite large – 10 to 20 ounces per day. Not only is that difficult for most people to comply with, but most juices contain only 27 to 33 per cent cranberry juice, with the remainder consisting of sugar and water. For those watching their weight and trying to control blood sugar, all this sugar presents a problem Pure juice is available in health food stores but it is quite expensive (approximately $15 to $20 per bottle) and very tart. For all of these reasons, cranberry supplements offer significant advantages.
The most widely studied cranberry product on the market is Cran-Max®, a full spectrum product that contains all the vital parts of the cranberry – the fruit, seeds, skin and juice. A major drawback with many cranberry juice powders is that they are quickly destroyed by stomach acid, and are only able to deliver a small amount of cranberry to the urinary tract. Cran-Max utilizes a patented Bio-Shield ® technology where the natural plant fibers form a lignan-cellulose matrix that protects the cranberry from destruction by the stomach acids, delivering the nutrients to the lower gastrointestinal tract where they can be absorbed. Cran-Max contains standardized condensed tannins and fiber, and is the only cranberry supplement that contains the full phytonutrient value of the whole cranberry, not just a portion.
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Urology, compared the effects of pure cranberry juice, cranberry tablets (Cran-Max) and placebo in the prevention of UTI in a group of 150 women with a history of recurrent UTIs. Both the pure juice and cranberry tablets had a significant impact on reducing UTI but the cranberry tablets provided the most effective method. Plus it was found to be more cost effective than pure cranberry juice.
A recent study conducted in France looked at the impact of a single post-coital dose of Cran-Max in a group of 120 women with a history of recurrent UTI. The study was conducted over 45 days and women were randomized into one of the following treatments: GynDelta® (French brand of Cran-Max), dry cranberry extract with 36 mg pro-anthocyanidins or placebo. Women were instructed to take their treatment six hours after intercourse. Over the study period, only 10.8% of the women in the GynDelta group suffered from a UTI compared to 18.9% in the cranberry extract group and 43.2 in the placebo group. Thus the researchers concluded that the Cran-Max product was most effective in preventing a the risk of post-coital UTI.
Preliminary research conducted by Dr. Anil Kapoor at McMaster University/St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario has shown some promising benefits for Cran-Max in the acute treatment of UTI. From his work it appears that taking Cran-Max in the early stages of a UTI can halt the infection. Further work is being done in this area
1. Website: American Urological Association. Accessed January 15, 2005.
2. Website: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Digestive and Diabetes and Kidney Diseases. Accessed January 15, 2005.
3. Stothers L. A randomized trial to evaluate effectiveness and cost effectiveness of naturopathic cranberry products as prophylaxis against urinary tract infection in women. Can J Uro. 2002 Jun;9(3):1558-62.
4. Kapoor A. Effectiveness of Cran-Max (a concentrated cranberry extract) as a prescribed method of treatment for current Urinary Tract Infections. Dept. of Urology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (study in progress).
5. Investigating the science behind plants as treatments. Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH 2004;11(2):1-2. Available: http://nccam.nih.gov/news/newsletter/index.htm (accessed June 4 2004).
6. Bohbot JM. Results of a randomized, double-blind study on the prevention of recurrent cystitis with GynDelta®. The Gynaecologist’s and Obstetrician’s Journal, January, 2007.