Important research published in 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, which in turn prevents infection.
E. coli cells are covered in small, hair-like filaments called fimbriae, which clasp onto healthy cells and spread throughout the body. But molecules in cranberry juice cause these fimbriae to curl up, which effectively stops them from being able to latch onto urinary tract cells.
The team discovered that 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 E. coli cells from the body, which no known drug is able to accomplish.
The study is different from a typical clinical study, in that researchers have now 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 for the study, it is more beneficial for individuals to use whole cranberry juices, or even fresh-squeezed cranberry juice, to obtain its maximum health benefits.
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