Mrs. Dodin, why are you doing research on urinary tract and bladder infections?
First of all, because these infections are very common worldwide. 50 to 60 % of all women worldwide will experience one of these infections at least once in their lifetime – often with very unpleasant symptoms such as a frequent urge to urinate, pain when urinating and an increased number of red blood cells in the urine. This alone is worth intensive research, but we also need much more research beyond the conventional treatment of these infections.
Why is that?
Many women take antibiotics for a few days as treatment. The problem is that these infections are often recurring, meaning that they occur more than twice in six months or more than three times in a year. If always treated with medication, this can lead to antibiotic-resistant strains. At some point, there would be no more suitable medication. That is why we must find strategies to prevent and treat these infections differently.
How are urinary tract infections triggered?
They are caused by bacteria from the intestinal tract entering the urinary tract. Escherichia coli bacteria are responsible for 90 % of the infections. The bacteria settle in the mucous membranes. There they find sustenance and stay alive.
And what can the cranberry do about it?
The idea actually originated in the laboratory. Cranberries contain a high proportion of proanthocyanidins (PACs). These bioactive substances make it difficult for germs to settle in the mucous membrane. They envelop the bacteria and effectively remove them from the membrane. Several studies have shown that a dose of at least 36 milligrams of PACs per day should help. There are also other effects that we are currently researching. We suspect that the microbial climate in the intestine is also partly responsible for such infections. And we believe that cranberries can have a positive influence here, too.
When talking about the effects of these PACs in cranberries, you seem to take a cautious stance. Why is that?
I am convinced of the effect because I have been able to observe it over all the years I have worked as a gynecologist as well as in research. It has also been proven in dozens of studies. But it must also be said that other studies exist that call this effectiveness into question. Here, it seems that the concentrations of PACs used were often too low, which we believe can lead to ineffectiveness. That is why we have started a new study. We are examining a group of 148 women. Half of them will receive a dose of 37 milligrams of PACs per day, which Diana Food will supply us with, and the control group will only take two milligrams.
How will you measure success?
We will track the number of times the infection reoccurs over a period of six months. At the same time, we are assessing how well the women metabolize the PACs. The molecules can only work if they have been metabolized to a sufficient extent. In the end, I am sure that we will be able to prove the prophylactic and healing effect of cranberries, which have been used this way for a very long time.
Sylvie Dodin is a gynecologist with 30 years of professional experience and a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Laval University in Quebec.