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FDA Allows for Health Claims About Cranberries and UTI Prevention

cranberries and cranberry juice

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Key Takeaways

  • Manufacturers of certain cranberry-containing items can now highlight the relationship between the fruit and UTI prevention on product labels.
  • Only qualified claims are allowed, meaning language must clarify that the data is limited.

The relationship between cranberry juice and urinary tract infection (UTI) prevention just became a little more official.

On July 21, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will not object qualified health claims printed on cranberry beverages containing at least 27% cranberry juice and cranberry supplements containing at least 500 milligrams (mg) of cranberry fruit powder. In other words, manufactures of cranberry products can now officially make claims about UTI prevention as long as certain approved language is used.

What Is a UTI?

Urinary tract infections are common infections which can occur in any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidney, ureters, and urethra. They are commonly caused by bacteria that enter the body through the urethra.

The relationship between cranberry juice and UTIs has long been the subject of research. "There are currently 394 studies listed in PubMed on the use of cranberries in UTIs in humans," Melissa Groves Azzarro, RDN, LD, registered dietitian and author of A Balanced Approach to PCOS, tells Verywell, explaining that there has been " a lack of standardization across studies in form [of cranberry] and dosage.”

This new outcome is a result of Ocean Spray Cranberries’ petition for an authorization of a health claim regarding cranberry products and UTI risk reduction. The FDA did not agree that there is enough strong evidence for an authorized health claim, or a claim that shows that a substance may reduce the risk of a disease or a health-related condition. However, a qualified health claim will be allowed moving forward.

What Is a Qualified Health Claim?

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, health claims on foods or dietary supplements must be authorized by the FDA. If there is not enough data to support a health claim, a qualified health claim may be authorized, which includes qualifying language to highlight the strength of the data available.

 “Qualified health claims (QHCs) are supported by scientific evidence, but do not meet the more rigorous ‘significant scientific agreement’ standard required for an authorized health claim,” the FDA says. “To ensure that these claims are not misleading, they must be accompanied by a disclaimer or other qualifying language to accurately communicate to consumers the level of scientific evidence supporting the claim.”

Cranberries and the Qualified Health Claim

The following qualified health claim for cranberry juice beverages is included in the FDA’s letter of enforcement discretion as one example manufacturers can use. Qualifying language, like “limited and inconsistent,” is used to comply with the qualified health claim requirement:

  • “Limited and inconsistent scientific evidence shows that by consuming one serving (8 oz) each day of a cranberry juice beverage, healthy women who have had a urinary tract infection (UTI) may reduce their risk of recurrent UTI.”

Additionally, the following qualified health claim for cranberry dietary supplements is included as one option of FDA-approved language:

  • “Limited scientific evidence shows that by consuming 500 mg each day of cranberry dietary supplement, healthy women who have had a urinary tract infection (UTI) may reduce their risk of recurrent UTI.”

To date, the cranberry juice and supplement qualified health claim is the only one granted in 2020.

The FDA noted that the claims do not include other conventional foods or food products made from or containing cranberries, such as dried cranberries or cranberry sauce.

Similar qualified health claims are allowed on other foods, too.

“Other examples of qualified health claims include walnuts and a possible risk reduction of coronary heart disease and whole grains and a possible risk reduction of type 2 diabetes,” Stephanie Simms Hodges, MS, MPH, RDN, founder of The Nourished Principles, tells Verywell.

Cranberries and UTIs

There are a variety of treatments to combat UTIs on the market, however, most of them cause adverse effects. Cranberries are an appealing remedy for UTIs due to the low risk of negative side effects.

Specifically, cranberries contain A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs), flavonoids which interfere with bacteria's ability to adhere to the bladder wall reducing the likelihood of infection. If cranberry products are consistently ingested, these PACs will continue to be supplied to the body and should reduce the risk of the bacteria causing infection.

In a 2017 meta-analysis of seven randomized controlled trials conducted in a total of 1,498 healthy women at risk of UTI, results showed that cranberry reduced the risk of UTI by 26% 

Azzarro says the anti-inflammatory properties of cranberries may also "help with symptoms of active urinary tract infection."

In order to ensure you are receiving the most benefit from cranberry products, Azzarro says you should choose pure cranberry juice—not cranberry juice cocktail—or reputable supplements with at least 500 mg of cranberry. Check with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet.

What This Means For You

Cranberry juice is an inexpensive, low-risk way to prevent UTIs. While data is still limited, you can feel more confident about the berry's ability to keep you healthy.

 

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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