You have probably seen articles recently on the health benefits of cranberries. While these berries were traditionally used by Native Americans to treat bladder and kidney infections, it seems they have now made their way into the world of science.
A recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food is attracting a lot of attention. Common bacteria known as E. Coli cause 85% of urinary tract infections and 90% of pyelonephritis (inflammation of the kidney). In this study, researchers noted the proanthocyanidins (PACs) in cranberries decreased the ability of the bacteria to adhere to the cells lining the bladder. Cranberries are also rich in a number of phytochemicals including anthocyanin, flavonols, as well as the proanthocyanidins. As it turns out, E. coli is not the only microorganism affected by cranberries. Helicobacter pylori also appears to respond to cranberries.
Since cranberry prevents bacterial adhesion, which is the initial step in the infection process and is required to initiate bacterial growth, it may prevent colonization and infection. What makes this mechanism interesting is that since cranberry does not kill bacteria like an antibiotic, there is no opportunity for antibiotic resistance. Therefore, cranberry will not lose its effectiveness over time.
Other areas where research is showing cranberry PACs beneficial include preventing plaque biofilms in periodontal disease, cardiovascular disease, and in preventing cancer.
Adding cranberry foods to your diet may help prevent UTI’s and ulcers associated with E. coli and H. pylori as well as offering other benefits that require more research. Since eating cranberries daily is often difficult and cranberry juices tend to be sugar-loaded, adding a cranberry supplement can help meet our health goals.
When buying a cranberry supplement, be aware the efficacy of some products, especially encapsulated powders, can be affected by high temperatures during the extraction process. Therefore, you want powders derived from whole cranberries that have been clinically tested and carry the USP or GMP designation.
If you are looking for a good cranberry product, two great options are available in our store that meet the above criteria include: UT Defense from Ortho Molecular, and Cranberry NS from Pure Encapsulations. If your primary objective is for UTI prevention I would recommend UT Defense. As a general health supplement we recommend Cranberry NS.
Make sure to check out our in-depth articles on preventing and healing chronic diseases utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.
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Wishing you good health!
Mike Woodley, R.Ph, FAARM, FMNM
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Ferguson PJ, Kurowska E, Freeman DJ, Chambers AF, Koropatnick DJ. A avonoid fraction from cranberry extract inhibits proliferation of human tumor cell lines. J Nutr. 2004;134:1529-1535.