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"Juicy Details" -- The Discovery Files

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A study from researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute shows that the juice from cranberries is better at fighting bacterial infections than the cranberry extract found in pill form.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: glass pouring) Drink Your Juice.

(Sound effect: theme music) I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Mom probably told you that to prevent a urinary tract infection, you should drink cranberry juice. It's true. For a while we believed that it was the cranberry's flavonoid compounds that did the trick, and thought that maybe if we extracted them and put them in a pill, we might get the same benefits. A new study says, "listen to your mom -- drink the juice."

Scientists at Worcester Polytechnic Institute tell us juice works -- extracts, well, not so much. The primary culprit in a urinary tract infection -- or UTI -- is a virulent form of e-coli that attaches itself to cells in the urinary tract. The strain has small hooks that it uses to hang on. Get enough of these guys together, and it creates a biofilm and next thing you know you've got a UTI.

The scientists knew from earlier research that exposure to cranberry juice causes the bacteria's hooks to curl up rendering them unable to create the biofilm. They say cranberry sauce works well too. Flavonoid extracts tested were much less effective at preventing biofilm formation.

We now know a little more, but scientists still have a way to go to tell us why the juice works, and the extracts don't.

By the way, listening to "the cranberries" had no effect.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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