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Cranberries Match Antibiotics for UTI Prevention

A study published in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that a common antibiotic for urinary tract infections (UTI) called trimethoprim has almost no advantage over cranberry extracts.

UTIs are one of the most common types of bacterial infection, and the most common among senior citizens.  Women are also particularly susceptible and one in five will develop a UTI in her lifetime.

Researchers from Ninewells Hospital and Medical School at the University of Dundee in Scotland recruited 137 women over the age of 45 for the study.  All of the participants had undergone antibiotic treatment for two or more UTIs in the previous 12 months.

The researchers wanted to determine which was more effective in preventing UTIs, antibiotics or cranberry extract.  So they randomly assigned participant to receive either 500mg of a cranberry extract or 100mg of trimethoprim for six months.

Using urine samples, researchers monitored the recurrence of a UTI among participants.  At the conclusion of the study period, 39 participants had developed another UTI.  Researchers measured the amount of time between the start of the study and the first UTI recurrence and found no significant difference between the two groups.

While the trimethoprim group did slightly better than the cranberry group (a median of 84.5 days before recurrence vs. 91 days), it is much more costly and has also been associated with a number of side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

These results may be particularly interesting to seniors.  That's because UTI risk increases with age, as do adverse reactions to antibiotics, drug interactions, and the development of infection causing bacteria.

     A substantial body of evidence supports that cranberries not only protect against UTIs, they may also help reduce your risk of stomach cancer, ulcers, and prevent the formation of plaque on your teeth.

     These benefits are likely due to two properties found in cranberries.  First, cranberries are very high in antioxidants, which help protect you from damaging free radicals.

     Second, unlike many other fruits, cranberries have an “anti-adhesion” effect on harmful bacteria in your body.  In other words, cranberries have been shown to help prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth, intestinal walls, stomach lining and the urinary tract.   Instead, the harmful bacteria get flushed from your body, helping to reduce infection risk.

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