Health wars in the cranberry bog

Health claims, particularly recent claims for ‘superfoods’, are becoming so common that one has to wonder how long it will be before potato chips, french fries, and everyday soft drinks are marketed as good for one’s health. GallonDaily considers that public health is as important a part of sustainable development as environmental health – hence this article.

It is not often that superfood health claims are debunked but the Cochrane Collaboration has just debunked one of the older claims with high public recognition: cranberry juice helps to prevent urinary tract infections. The Collaboration is a UK based international democratic network of 28,000 researchers that accepts no industry funding and provides open advice to the public and to governments on health care issues. In a paper published earlier this month the Collaboration states that “Cranberry juice does not appear to have a significant benefit in preventing UTIs and may be unacceptable to consume in the long term.” Interestingly the cranberry claim is one of the few health claims accepted by a government, the government of France, for use in marketing.

Companies responsible for product claims, especially health and environmental claims, need to be especially diligent not only in verifying claims but also in monitoring activities around the world that may lead to a valid challenge to the claim. The Cranberry Institute is still fighting to maintain the UTI claim: time will tell whether governments and the public go with the Cochrane Collaboration research or the industry-serving research promoted by the Cranberry Institute. There is little doubt in our mind as to which group has the greater credibility!

The Cochrane Collaboration paper can be found at http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001321/cranberries-for-preventing-urinary-tract-infections
The Cranberry Institute view is at http://www.cranberryinstitute.org/healthresearch.htm

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