Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cranberry juice and UTIs


Have you ever noticed how, once a belief has been passed down over several generations, we tend to believe that it is true?  For example, my mother used to insist that I bundle up before going outside in winter so I wouldn't catch a cold.  Now, I know colds are caused by germs, not getting chilled, and my mother knows this, as well.  She still repeated this untruth to me, however, and, worse, I found myself repeating the same thing to my own children!  I did catch myself on several occasions and stop but I'm sure I said it a few times without even thinking about it - even though I know it is not true.  It's really rather sad - though interesting how that sort of thing works.

Now science and medicine in modern times are pretty good at recognizing what has basis in fact and what doesn't.  Part of the reason has to do with the scientific method, of course, but I'll not go into details about that.  Suffice it to say that when medical knowledge is updated, you can bet your local family doctor will alter his or her practice to complement the new discovery in most cases.

Our folk treatments and "common knowledge" are different.  Unless we stop and think, we might find ourselves repeating things that really have no basis in fact!

I recently found out that one of these long-held beliefs may simply not be true and I was shocked to discover that I always thought that it was. The truth is that cranberries (and cranberry juice)  may not do anything to help with urinary tract infections.  There is not enough evidence that it helps to prevent them and it does not seem to help cure them.

Here's the scoop:  Ingesting cranberry juice may help prevent E coli. bacteria from adhering to the bladder lining. This may be where the idea it was helpful came from. The thing is, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are rarely caused by the E coli. bacteria!  There is no proof that cranberry products prevent other bacteria from adhering to bladder cells so there may not be a benefit to drinking it to prevent UTIs.

Yes, there was a small study done in 1994 on elderly women that showed that there might be a small benefit to drinking cranberry juice but it was only done on 150 women and they were all elderly so this cannot be used to prove anything for the general population.  It is best to wait and see if any subsequent tests show the same benefit for different groups.

The best treatment for UTIs is still antibiotics and this treatment is very effective.  If you feel you have a UTI, see your doctor for treatment. Left untreated, these infections could get nasty so one shouldn't fool around.

As for cranberry juice, I'll still drink it as I like the taste.  No reason to stop drinking it for that reason!

Information for this post was obtained from the following sources
ABC news
Science-based Medicine
Cochrane Summaries

Image found here


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