Cranberry Pills for UTI Work Like Antibiotics

April 29, 2015 Updated: May 4, 2015

Cranberry juice capsules can lower the risk of urinary tract infection (UTI) by 50 percent in women who have a catheter in place while undergoing elective gynecological surgery.

The reduction is similar to the outcome when patients take antibiotics as a preventative measure, said Betsy Foxman, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and lead author of the new study.

“Taking cranberry juice capsules is preferable to taking antibiotics, because limiting antibiotic use helps avoid antibiotic resistance and protects the good bacteria living in and on our bodies from inadvertent damage,” she said.

“We should save antibiotics for UTI treatment, as cranberry juice capsules are equally effective in preventing UTI post-elective gynecologic surgery,” she said.

Women who undergo these procedures have as much as a 64 percent chance to develop a UTI after the catheter is removed.

For the study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 160 women, ages 23 to 88, were divided into two groups. Half took two cranberry extract capsules twice a day for six weeks, while the other half took a placebo.

Two Cranberry Capsules

Previous studies have shown that cranberries prevent urinary tract infections but this is the first to address its efficacy following surgery. The berries have not been found to work as a treatment for infections.

Although not all women taking the cranberry supplement avoided urinary tract infections (15 out of 80 compared with 30 out of 80), the researchers found a later onset in most cases for those who were using it—18 days as opposed to 8.5 days after surgery.

The study also found a woman’s risk of UTI increased sevenfold if she had to self-catheterize when she was unable to urinate normally after the initial catheter was removed. The length of time the catheter was in place and the number of times a woman had to self-catheterize affected the risk of infection.

The National Institutes of Health funded the work.

This article was previously published on Futurity.orgRepublished under Creative Commons License 4.0.

*Image of “cranberries” via Shutterstock