SOUTH HAVEN: This Thurs­day Oct 11, 2012 photo shows cran­ber­ries in a field. —AP

Cran­ber­ries squashed as folk rem­edy for uri­nary in­fec­tions

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

CHICAGO:

An­other folk rem­edy bites the dust. Cran­berry cap­sules didn’t pre­vent or cure uri­nary in­fec­tions in nurs­ing home res­i­dents in a study chal­leng­ing per­sis­tent un­proven claims to the con­trary. The re­search adds to decades of con­flict­ing ev­i­dence on whether cran­ber­ries in any form can pre­vent ex­tremely com­mon bac­te­rial in­fec­tions, es­pe­cially in women. Many stud­ies sug­gest­ing a ben­e­fit were based on weak sci­ence, but that hasn’t stopped mar­keters and even some health care providers from rec­om­mend­ing cran­berry juice or cap­sules as an in­ex­pen­sive way to avoid these un­com­fort­able and po­ten­tially risky in­fec­tions.

The new study, pub­lished on­line Thurs­day in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, used rig­or­ous meth­ods and the re­sults are con­vinc­ing, ac­cord­ing to a jour­nal ed­i­to­rial. Health care providers who en­cour­age us­ing cran­berry prod­ucts as a pre­ven­tion method “are do­ing their pa­tients a dis­ser­vice,” the ed­i­to­rial says.

The in­fec­tions

Uri­nary in­fec­tions lead to nearly 9 mil­lion doc­tor vis­its and more than 1 mil­lion hos­pi­tal­iza­tions each year. Men, be­cause of their uri­nary anatomy, are less vul­ner­a­ble, while al­most half of all U.S. women will de­velop at least one of these in­fec­tions in their life­time. Symp­toms can in­clude painful, fre­quent uri­na­tion and fa­tigue. An­tibi­otics are of­ten used to treat the in­fec­tions, which usu­ally are not se­ri­ous but can lead to kid­ney in­fec­tions and some­times dan­ger­ous blood­stream in­fec­tions. Uri­nary in­fec­tions are the most com­monly di­ag­nosed in­fec­tion in nurs­ing home res­i­dents, but they of­ten have no ob­vi­ous symp­toms and ev­i­dence sug­gests an­tibi­otics have lit­tle ef­fect in these older pa­tients with­out symp­toms, the study au­thors say.

The study

The re­search in­cluded 147 older women in nurs­ing homes who were ran­domly as­signed to take two cran­berry cap­sules or dummy pills for a year. The num­ber of women with lab­o­ra­tory ev­i­dence of in­fec­tion - bac­te­ria and white blood cells in their urine - var­ied dur­ing the study but av­er­aged about 29 per­cent over­all in both groups. Ten in­fec­tions in the cran­berry group caused overt symp­toms, com­pared with 12 in the placebo group but that dif­fer­ence wasn’t sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant. There also were no dif­fer­ences in hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and deaths be­tween the two groups. The Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health helped pay for the re­search, led by Dr. Man­isha Juthani-Me­hta, a Yale Univer­sity in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist.

Ocean Spray Cran­ber­ries, Inc., one of the best-known mak­ers of cran­berry-based prod­ucts, pro­motes the pur­ported health ben­e­fits on its web­site. Re­spond­ing to the new study, com­pany spokes­woman Kellyanne Dig­nan cited pre­vi­ous stud­ies that sug­gested a ben­e­fit and said, “We take great pride in our cran­berry prod­ucts and the health ben­e­fits associated with them.”

The ad­vice

Peo­ple who think they have a uri­nary in­fec­tion should see a doc­tor for di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment, but avoid cran­berry prod­ucts “in place of proven treat­ments for in­fec­tions,” ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health al­ter­na­tive medicine branch. The jour­nal ed­i­to­rial says ad­di­tional re­search is needed to find ef­fec­tive treat­ments for nurs­ing home res­i­dents and oth­ers. “It is time to move on from cran­ber­ries,” the ed­i­to­rial says. —AP

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