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DEAR DR. ROACH: I nearly died from a urinary tract infection; I was in the hospital for eight days. I was told to drink 3 ounces of cranberry juice in the morning and take a cranberry extract capsule every night. Since then, I have had no more UTIs. I pray this will help others. -- L.A.
ANSWER: I am always glad when people write in with their stories, because it gives me an opportunity to discuss the science behind them.
Cranberries contain substances (proanthocyanidins) that prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the bladder, so there is a plausible reason why they might prevent UTIs. However, the studies to support this hypothesis have had mixed results.
Previous studies showed as much as a 38 percent risk reduction in UTI, and 47 percent reduction in recurrent UTIs; however, the most recent review of all studies did not show a benefit in taking either cranberry capsules or cranberry juice in preventing infection.
I don't think the science is settled, however. Larger and more robust studies still may prove a benefit in UTI prevention. Until then, there is little downside to drinking cranberry juice (I recommend getting 100 percent cranberry juice and diluting it with plain or soda water to avoid excess sugar).
Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or request an order form of available health newsletters at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. Health newsletters may be ordered from www.rbmamall.com.
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