Cranberry juice has long been believed to have special powers for preventing urinary tract infections such as cystitis. Although its effects were long classified as folklore, some studies demonstrate fewer infections among people drinking cranberry juice (Pharmacological Reviews, Oct., 2016). A careful analysis of all the studies done on cranberry juice preventing urinary tract infections showed inconsistent results (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Oct. 17, 2012). Might there be a benefit from cranberry pills?
Cranberry Capsules for Urinary Tract Infections:
Q. I have started taking cranberry capsules in the hope that they will work as well against urinary tract infections as cranberry juice. What do you think about the benefit from cranberry pills?
The Cranberry Pill Study:
A. A recent study tested the benefit from cranberry pills compared to placebo among women in nursing homes (JAMA, Nov. 8, 2016). The elderly women in this trial were prone to repeated urinary tract infections. The measurement that was made was of bacteria in the urine.
Unfortunately, in this randomized clinical trial the cranberry pills were no more effective than placebo. You can listen to the lead author explain the study and its findings here.
Are There Other Ways to Avoid Urinary Tract Infections?
If you can’t count on getting a benefit from cranberry pills, you might want another way to avoid repeat UTIs. Sometimes doctors prescribe antibiotics to prevent as well as treat urinary tract infections, but this might not be considered good stewardship of antibiotics.
Some readers report that a dietary supplement containing D-mannose helps protect against urinary tract infections. A pilot study published in the European Review of Medical and Pharmacological Sciences (July, 2016) found that D-mannose helped for both the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections.