Friday, January 28, 2011

Cranberry and Urinary Tract Health

     Many of us have heard about the health benefits of cranberries and the urinary tract. But have you ever wondered how beneficial it actually is? Or whether it is just an old wives tale? A study published in the Molecular Nutrition Food Research Journal analyzed the effects cranberry juice cocktail has on urinary tract health and the results were a positive surprise.
     Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can affect both men and women and are one of the most common bacterial infections in adults today. The infection occurs when hostile bacteria contaminates the urinary tract. Typically, the bacterium attaches itself to the uroepithelial cells in the urinary tract via an adherence mechanism on the bacterial cell, known as fimbriae. 90% of acute UTIs are strains of the bacterium E.coli. Therefore, the researchers for this study used E.coli as the bacterial component.
     Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail (which contains 27% pure cranberry juice by weight) was the product chosen for this study. The researchers tested and observed the interaction of the E.coli strain and the uroepithelial cells in the presence of cranberry juice. What they found was that specific molecular compounds in cranberries known as proanthocyanidins (PACs) have anti-adhesive affects on uropathogens, such as E.coli. Under microscopic view, the fimbriae were not observed at all on the E.Coli strain when cranberry juice was present. Therefore, E.coli was not able to attach itself to the urinary tract wall and contaminate cells, leading to infection. These results display that the consumption of cranberries (even cranberry juice cocktail) can in fact reduce the risk of obtaining a UTI. It is important to be aware, however, that this does not mean cranberries can cure a preexisting infection. Once bacteria attaches itself to uroepithilial cells, cranberry compounds cannot remove it. Also, the study found that these anti-adhesive effects lasted approximately 10 hours after consumption of cranberry juice. Some people are more prone to UTIs than others. For those who are, it may be worth adding more cranberry, even cranberry juice cocktail, into your daily diet.

Camesano, T.A., Gallardo-Moreno A.M., Pinzon-Arango, P.A., & Liu, Y. (2010). Direct adhesion force measurements between E.coli and human uroepithelial cells in cranberry juice cocktail. Molecular Nutrition Food Research Journal. 54, 1-9.

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