New research published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research has identified how cranberry juice works at the molecular level to fight virulent E. coli infections in the urinary tract. The team of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts that conducted the study found that cranberry juice literally stops E. coli cells from attaching themselves to urinary tract cells, preventing infection.
E. coli cells are covered in small, hair-like filaments called fimbriae, which clasp onto healthy cells and spread infection. But the molecules in cranberry juice cause the fimbriae to curl up, effectively stopping them from being able to latch onto urinary tract cells.
The team discovered that, apart from cranberry juice, virulent E. coli is too strong to be eliminated from the urinary tract by the simple flow of urine. But when cranberry juice is present, normal urinary flow is enough to expel most of the E. coli cells from the tract.
The study is different from a typical clinical study, in that researchers have identified the logistical method by which cranberries prevent infection. It is already known that cranberries and cranberry juice help to prevent urinary tract infection, but this research sheds a little bit more light as to why and how it works.
“This is not a clinical study — it’s a mechanical study that shows us the direct forces that can lead to infection,” explained Terri Camesano, professor of chemical engineering at WPI, and author of the study.
Though the team used commercial preparations of cranberry juice cocktail, it may be more beneficial to use whole cranberry juice or even fresh-squeezed cranberry juice to obtain maximum benefit.
There are many other benefits to be obtained from cranberries as well. They include:
Doc’s Thoughts: The ideal way is pure cranberry juice. I would suggest avoiding the “cocktail” varies as most of the contents are water, sugar and other additives. Think pure cranberry juice or better still, cranberries themselves.