How do cranberries help to support urinary tract health?
Cranberries contain natural compounds that have the ability to prevent foreign particles from adhering to the surface tissues of the urinary tract. It was once believed that the method of action for cranberry’s urinary tract benefits was limited to its ability to acidify the urine. Recent scientific studies suggest that there’s more to it than just its ability to lower urinary pH. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (339: 15, 1085-1086, 1998) offered evidence that certain tannins (polyphenolic plant compounds) found in cranberry juice called proanthocyanidins are actually responsible for inhibiting foreign particles from adhering to the surface tissues of the urinary tract. Instead, these particles are suspended in the urine, allowing them to be eliminated from the body. Cranberries also contain a naturally-occurring sugar called D-Mannose, which is believed to provide additional anti-adherence properties and enhance the action of the naturally-occurring proanthocyanidins in cranberries. Together proanthocyanidins and D-Mannose may inhibit the formation of certain particle colonies on urinary tract surfaces; however, they’re unlikely to have any effect on pre-existing build-up.
Some cranberry products also contain Uva Ursi and Grapeseed extracts. What us their purpose?
In addition to its benefits as a diuretic (a substance that promotes frequent urination), Uva Ursi (a popular herb) contains a chemical called hydroquinone. Hydroquinone provides a derivative called arbutin, which is absorbed in the stomach and is believed to inhibit the adhesion of foreign particles. Grapeseed extract is high in polyphenols similar to the tannins found in cranberries, and these polyphenols are believed to provide additional anti-adherence benefits.
Do any of the ingredients mentioned above treat infections?
Absolutely not! While certain nutrients and/or herbs may inhibit the growth cycle of undesirable organisms, they’re not antibiotics and they’ll have no effect on existing colonies of bacteria that may have colonized the urinary tract. If you believe you have a urinary tract infection, please consult a physician for proper treatment, and make sure to inform him or her of any supplements you are taking.