Confirming a long-held belief, women who eat cranberries can help prevent harmful bacteria from infiltrating the urinary tract, according to a study done at Rutgers University and published in Phytochemistry.
The efficacy of cranberries against bacteria is due to a natural compound in the berry known as proanthocyandin (PAC’s), and their anti-adhesion properties. These properties allow cranberries to stop bacteria from sticking to the wall of the urinary tract, an area in which bacterial infections are quite common.
Some 50 percent of all women report having one or more urinary tract infections during their lifetime. It has been learned that E. coli, the bacterial source of urinary tract infections, aren’t responding as well to ordinary antibiotics as they did in the past. Results from the Rutgers study showed that cranberries, with their anti-adhesion ability, were able to prevent the antibiotic-resistant bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract in 80 percent of the cases studied.
Some researchers have theorized that the cranberry’s PAC’s can also work to reduce stomach ulcers and gum disease, also as a result of anti-adhesion. Rutgers researchers compared the cranberry’s PAC action to the same elements in other foods such as apple juice and grape juice, green tea, and dark chocolate. The findings showed that the same level of protection isn’t afforded by every PAC-rich source of food. As a comparison, an 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice has the same amount of PAC’s as 1/3 cup of sweetened dried cranberries, 1/3 cup of cranberry sauce, or a cup of fresh or frozen cranberries.
Just two hours after drinking a glass of cranberry juice, the healthful effects will begin to be noticed, and will last for up to 10 hours, according to the Rutgers study and other similar research. So if you want the maximum amount of protection against urinary tract infections, it’s a good idea to drink two glasses of cranberry juice a day – one for breakfast and another in the evening. But keep in mind that the cranberry isn’t a medical treatment – it’s a food. Also, it’s important that you talk to your health care provider if you think you have a urinary tract infection.