By David Blyweiss, M.D.
If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, I’m sure you’re familiar with the healing effects of cranberries. But here’s something you may not know. It turns out that the protective effects of cranberries may also extend to men’s prostates.
This is great news for all men, especially those who battle prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) or who suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Cranberries are a wonderful source of potent antioxidants, especially proanthocyanidins (a group of condensed flavan-3-ols, that can be found in many plants, most notably apples, maritime pine bark, cinnamon, cocoa, grape seed, grape skin, and red wines). This has given them the coveted status of a super fruit. But to understand how these bright red berries can promote prostate health, it’s important to understand the role they play in a healthy urinary tract.
Studies show that cranberries prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract. In fact, cranberries can slash the adhesion of bacteria—particularly certain E. coli bacteria—by an impressive 80%! 1
According to a new study by Czech researchers, the same mechanism that eases urinary tract infections can also help protect the prostate. Both BPH and chronic prostatitis are linked to lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).
BPH is a non-cancerous enlarging of the prostate and it affects about half of all men over the age of 50. Chronic prostatitis, on the other hand, can happen at any age and is a recurring bacterial infection of the prostate that causes pain during urination and sex.
How well did the cranberry work? The researchers recruited 42 men who were all about age 63 to participate in their six month study. Half the men were given 1,500 mg. of cranberry extract or no treatment at all. By the end of the study, the results were clear: the men taking the cranberry supplement were pleasantly surprised to find that their urinary symptoms—including the flow rate, volume and residual urine in the bladder—had improved significantly.
Better yet, all of the men in the cranberry group had lower PSA levels than when the study began. The men who didn’t take the cranberry extract didn’t see any improvement in either their urinary symptoms or the PSA scores.2
Cranberries’ ability to thwart bacteria’s tendency to stick to the walls of both the urinary tract and prostate tissue can also help prevent recurring prostatitis. This antiseptic action offers safe and natural hope to younger men who suffer from this painful condition.
I would, however, not recommend drinking cranberry juice. It contains far too much sugar and not enough of the nutrients needed to benefit either the prostate or the urinary tract. Instead, opt for a cranberry extract in capsule form. For a truly effective supplement, make sure that your cranberry extract is standardized to contain a minimum of 6% quinic acid and a minimum of 7% proanthocyanidins (often listed on the label as OPC’s).
To get the most protection, take 400 mg. of cranberry extract twice a day. If you have an active case of prostatitis or suffer from mild to moderate BPH, increase that amount to 500 mg. three times daily.
While cranberry is a remarkably safe herb with a long history of use, it can interact with certain pharmaceutical drugs like warfarin (Coumadin). If you are taking warfarin or other blood thinning drugs, check with your doctor before taking therapeutic doses of cranberry extract.3
1. Shmuely H. Susceptibility of isolates to the antiadhesion activity of a high-molecular-weight constituent of cranberry. Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease. 2004;50: 231-235.
2.Vidlar A. The effectiveness of dried cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) in men with lower urinary tract symptoms. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010;104:1181-1189.
3. Aston JL. Interaction Between Warfarin and Cranberry Juice. Pharmacotherapy. 2006;26: 1314-1319.