Was mom right? Cranberries effective at preventing urinary tract infections for some people

Cranberries are harvested at Weston Cranberry Farm October 22, 2004 in Carver, Massachusetts. Most of the worlds cranberries are harvested on 37 thousand acres in five states, with Massachusetts being the leading producer.
Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Cranberries are harvested at Weston Cranberry Farm on October 22, 2004 in Carver, Mass.
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

(CBS News) The old wives' tale that cranberry juice may be able to help with your urinary tract infection (UTI) might actually have some weight to it. Research has shown that cranberry juice and other cranberry products may help prevent UTIs in some people.

The study, which was published in Archives of Internal Medicine on July 9, involved 1,616 subjects an a subgroup of 1494 subjects. The group was randomized into people who used cranberry products and people who did not.

After analyzing the results, it was found that cranberry-containing products worked to prevent UTIs best for women with recurring UTIs, women, children, cranberry juice drinkers and subjects who used cranberry-containing products more than twice daily.

Cranberry juice was found to be more effective that the cranberry capsules or tablets. Researchers suggested this may be due to the people drinking the juice being more hydrated than those using the other methods, but warned that drinking juice with a high sugar content may "raise concerns" for people who are diabetics.

The news comes in as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expectedto propose new nutrition standards on what could be sold at school vending machines. Sugar-sweetend cranberry cocktails are expected to be cut due to the stringent rules that are attempting to reduce sugar intake in children's diets. Cranberry industry officials have argued that the fruit, which can be part of a healthy diet, needs sugar to sweeten the tart taste.

"Given the beneficial and scientifically proven health properties of cranberries, we believe there is a need to establish clear standards that recognize cranberries as a part of a healthy diet," the bipartisan Congressional Cranberry Caucus comittee wrote in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. "We ask that you consider including a variety of cranberry juice and dried cranberry products in USDA's food nutrition program so that children, seniors and adults served by these programs are not denied benefits unique to cranberries."

New evidence of cranberries' benefits may help persuade officials to keep them in schools - although adult women are the most likely group to get UTIs.  About 40 to 50 percent of the group are expected to have at least one episode of the disease in their lifetimes, the study's researchers stated.

The study found UTIs cause more than 7 million doctors visits and 100,000 hospitalizations a year. The infections of the urinary tract are caused by germs that enter the urethra and then the bladder, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can cause symptoms including pain or burning during urination, cramping in the lower abdomen and a need to urinate often. If the disease spreads to the kidneys, it can cause fatigue, fevers and mental changes or confusion.