Women have long-relied on cranberry juice to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). A new study suggests that certain types of cranberry juice may do the same for kids, Reuters reports.
The small study, published in the Journal of Urology, involved kids who'd had at least two UTIs in the last year. Researchers asked them to drink either a cranberry juice that contained high levels of proanthocyanidins (PACs), compounds that appear to fight the bacteria behind UTIs, or a cranberry-free juice.
Over the next year, kids who drank cranberry juice had UTIs at a rate of 0.4 per child, compared with 1.15 in the comparison group.
The power of cranberries against UTIs "was initially regarded as an old wives' tale," said Dr. Hiep Nguyen of Boston Children's Hospital, who was not involved in the study.
But Nguyen said he now often recommends cranberry—either juice or supplements—when kids have recurrent UTIs.
"It can be a great alternative to prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics," Nguyen said.
That doesn't mean cranberry is the cure-all. If a child has frequent UTIs, Nguyen said, antibiotics may be necessary to "break the cycle."
Not all cranberry juice has a high PAC content, and researchers didn't give specifics about brands. Nguyen warned against brands with too much sugar, and against drinking too much. From Reuters:
"Pure cranberry juice often doesn't taste so good," [Nguyen] noted. So manufacturers often mix it with something more palatable, like apple juice, or add a lot of sugar.
Cranberry juice mixed with other juices would likely have lower PAC levels. If there's added sugar, that means calories; drinking a lot of sugary juice can also cause diarrhea in kids.
"We do worry about the sugar content," Nguyen said.
Image: Cranberry juice via Shutterstock.