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Cranberry Juice For Urinary Tract Infections? It Really Can Help

Native Americans and Pilgrims were onto something when they turned to cranberries as an infection fighter. American settlers believed the bitter food could stave off scurvy. But there's more than just Vitamin C in this indigenous berry.

A new meta-analysis finds drinking cranberry juice (or consuming cranberry-containing products) on a regular basis may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women. The study, published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, concluded that regular cranberry-juice drinkers were 38 percent less likely than non-cranberry-juice-drinkers to develop UTIs.

The authors conclude that women with recurrent infections and those consuming cranberry products more than twice a day tended to get the most protection. The amounts of cranberry given in the trials varied, and more research is needed to figure out exactly how much cranberry you'd need to consume, the paper says. (We wonder how strong those cranberry drinks blended with apple or grape juice really are).

Also, the cranberry supplements were not as good as the real thing. "We are surprised," author Chien-Chang Lee of the National Taiwan University Hospital tells The Salt that cranberry-containing capsules or supplements were less effective than cranberry juice in reducing the risk.

And how does it work? Previous studies have found that cranberries contain compounds that seem to inhibit bacteria from setting-up-shop and infecting the lining of the urinary tract.

UTI's are one of the most common bacterial infections. And according to the Archives paper, each year UTIs are the cause of nearly 7,000,000 doctor's office visits and about 100,000 hospitalizations in the United States. The estimated annual cost of UTIs in this country? A cool $1.6 billion.

If you're looking for new ways to incorporate cranberry juice in your life, check out this recipe from Washington, D.C. bartender Gina Chersevani:

Cranberry Antioxidant Punch

Makes approximately six drinks

2 cups fresh cranberries

6 to 8 pears, medium size

1 cup quince simple syrup — make ahead, recipe below

Feed cranberries and whole pears into a juice machine. Double strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove the cranberry seeds. In a pitcher, mix the pear and cranberry juice with the quince simple syrup. To serve, pour over ice and garnish with fresh cranberries.

To make alcoholic, add 1 1/2 ounce of vodka per cocktail.

Quince Simple Syrup

1 cup honey

2 cups water

3 medium-sized quinces, sliced with seeds removed

In a small pot, combine honey, water and quince. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow quince to simmer for about 10 minutes or until fruit is soft. Remove from heat, strain the quince out, discard. Let syrup cool to room temperature before using.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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