Urinary tract infections and the use of cranberry products as a treatment
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most commonly acquired bacterial infections. It is estimated that half of all women in the UK will have a UTI at least once in their lifetime. Children can also get UTIs, though less commonly, and elderly people are also vulnerable. Other at-risk groups are patients with spinal cord injuries and/or catheters, and those with certain chronic diseases such as diabetes or HIV.
UTIs usually get better on their own within 4 or 5 days. Antibiotics can help speed up recovery time and are usually recommended for women who keep getting UTIs. In some cases, long-term use of antibiotics can help to prevent the infection returning.
NICE advises that any person with multiple sclerosis at risk of UTIs should not be recommended a course of antibiotics or cranberry juice.
NICE has guidance on Urinary tract infection in children: Diagnosis, treatment and long-term management and Lower urinary tract symptoms: The management of lower urinary tract symptoms in men. However, these do not cover the use of cranberry products for the prevention of UTIs.
Two large reviews examining the use of cranberry products to prevent UTIs were published in 2012.
The first review looked at 13 studies covering 1616 people. In this study, Cranberry juice showed to be more effective than cranberry capsules. Results showed that cranberry-containing products tended to be more effective in
- women with recurrent UTIs
- female populations
- people using cranberry-containing products more than twice daily
The second review found that compared to a placebo, cranberry products showed very little or no benefit in most population groups. Cranberry juice cannot currently be recommended for the prevention of UTIs.
A limitation of studies into the effects of cranberry juice on UTIs is that often the study participants stopped drinking the juice. Individuals are likely to respond differently to each treatment option. It is advisable to seek advice from your GP when looking at which treatment will be best.
Sources used in writing this article are available on request
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Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 13 August 2014
Next review: 13 August 2017