Study: Cranberry extract can help stop antibiotic resistance
12/01/2019 // Cassie B. // Views

If you enjoyed cranberries this Thanksgiving, you might have thought about how good it tastes or debated with relatives about whether the jellied variety is better than the traditional sauce. One thought that probably didn’t enter your mind was how much it can do for your health. Sure, most people know that cranberry juice can stop a urinary tract infection (UTI) in its tracks, but did you know that cranberry extract has the power to stop the very serious problem of antibiotic resistance?

That’s right: A new study has found that cranberry extract can actually make bacteria more sensitive to antibiotics. The Canadian researchers behind the study said that it was the fruit’s effects on UTIs that inspired them to look into its infection-fighting abilities. They chose bacteria that cause problems like gastroenteritis, pneumonia, and UTIs for their study.

After applying cranberry extract to cultures of the bacteria, they noticed that cranberry molecules rendered the cultures more sensitive to antibiotics. Their effects were twofold: They made the bacteria’s membranes more permeable to the antibiotic while disrupting the mechanism used by the bacteria when it wants to eliminate the antibiotic.

The study’s lead author, Professor Nathalie Tufenkji of McGill University, said that when bacteria are treated with antibiotics in a lab, the bacteria normally acquire resistance with time. In this case, however, when cranberry extract was used at the same time as the antibiotic, resistance never developed. They said they were surprised by their finding and are excited about the potential.


Moreover, the cranberry extract’s dual action meant that it was effective even in low doses. The scientists replicated their findings in insect models, and it’s hoped that this can be applied to humans down the line.

Cranberry extract’s effects are believed to be caused by molecules known as proanthocyanidins, and the researchers would like to see further research determining which specific proanthocyanidins work best.

Professor Tufenkji said: "We are eager to pursue this research further. Our hope is to reduce the doses of antibiotics required in human and veterinary medicine as part of efforts to combat antibiotic resistance."

This finding is incredibly timely as the World Health Organization reports that antibiotic resistance is now one of the biggest threats facing human health as well as food security and development. It’s a problem that can affect people and animals alike, and growing numbers of infections are becoming more difficult to treat as antibiotics lose efficacy.

Cranberries’ many other health benefits

As if helping combat antibiotic resistance weren’t enough, cranberries offer a host of other benefits. As we mentioned earlier, they can help fight UTIs. That’s because their proanthocyanidins prevent bacteria from clinging to the cellular walls in the bladder, stopping bacteria from multiplying and facilitating the elimination of bacteria via urination. Studies have shown that consuming them regularly can prevent middle-aged and pregnant women from getting recurring UTIs.

In addition, they have high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, which can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Their salicylic acid content, meanwhile, can reduce swelling and help fight tumors. On top of that, their anti-inflammatory effects can help keep lungs healthy and stave off the influenza virus.

It shouldn’t be surprising that these berries are so beneficial considering how closely related they are to one of the most legendary superfoods, blueberries. Cranberries have long been regarded for their impressive health benefits, but the ability to stop antibiotic resistance could well prove to be their crowning achievement.

Sources for this article include:

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