drink cranberry juice

Cranberry juice can help to combat urinary tract infections (UTI) and yeast, according to a new study.

The popular berry juice has always been associated with health benefits anecdotally, but this recent study from McGill University’s Department of Chemical Engineering has helped to shed some new light on how these benefits are derived.

The studies were spearheaded by Professor Nathalie Tufenkji and revealed that cranberry powder can inhibit the ability of a certain type of bacteria – Proteus mirabilis – to flourish and cause harm in the body. Proteus mirabilis is one of the main causes of urinary tract infection.

The experiments also show that increasing concentrations of cranberry powder reduces the bacterial production of urease, an enzyme that contributes to the virulence of infections.

These new findings are significant as bacterial movement is critical to the spread of infection because infectious bacteria literally swim to disseminate in the urinary tract and escape the body’s immune response. But the research shows that cranberry juice can inhibit this process.

Tufenkji recently published another study in collaboration with McGill professor Showan Nazhat which found that that cranberry-enriched silicone substances impaired the spread of the Proteus mirabilis bacteria.

That study was published online in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces.

Tufenkji said: “While the effects of cranberry in living organisms remain subject to further study, our findings highlight the role that cranberry consumption might play in the prevention of chronic infections.

“More than 150 million cases of UTI are reported globally each year, and antibiotic treatment remains the standard approach for managing these infections. The current rise of bacterial resistance to antibiotics underscores the importance of developing another approach.”

But taking extracts from cranberries and condensing it into a pharmaceutical pill will not be as beneficial – according to a separate study published in 2011 by researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

The study tested proanthocyanidins or PACs, a group of flavonoids found in cranberries.

According to scientists, they were thought to be the ingredient that gives the juice its infection-fighting properties, and so they toyed with the idea of extracting that chemical from the cranberry and turning it into a tablet.

But the WPI paper said that this is ineffective and instead it is far better to take cranberries in their more natural form.

Their findings were published in a paper called “Impact of Cranberry Juice and Proanthocyanidins on the Ability of Escherichia coli to Form Biofilms,” which was featured in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology.

In the study, Camesano’s team incubated two different strains of E. coli in the presence of two separate mixtures of commercially available cranberry juice cocktail. They also incubated the bacteria separately in the presence of PACs, but not the  juice. While the juice cultures completely prevented biofilm formation, the extracts from the cranberries were revealed to be far less effective.

Commenting on their findings, the authors of the study said: “Cranberries have been recognized for their health benefits for a number of years, especially in the prevention of UTIs. While the mechanisms of action of cranberry products on bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation are not fully understood, this study shows that cranberry juice is better at inhibiting biofilm formation than the isolated A-type cranberry flavonoids and PACs, although the reasons for this are not yet clear.”

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