Cranberry juice has been shown to effectively treat and reduce the chances of developing urinary tract infections. So you would expect it to be just as effective in preventing and treating kidney stones.
Unfortunately this is not the case, and the worse case scenario is that drinking cranberry juice may actually increase the risk of developing kidney stones!
But lets not get too alarmed at this revelation, because as per most of these findings, the actual risks are minimal, and the benefits of drinking cranberry juice far outweigh them and the possible problems with kidney stones.
So What is the Link Between Cranberry Juice and Kidney Stones?
Depending on what website and article you read, you will discover varying research and facts/opinions.
What are Kidney Stones?
Without getting into too much medical detail, kidney stones develop when an over accumulation of various substances such as calcium, uric acid and oxalate, crystallize and form as hard masses in the kidneys.
Usually the stones travel through the bladder and are passed out without any problems. However, sometimes they become blocked in the tube connecting the bladder and the kidneys. This results in various, painful symptoms including lower abdomen and back pain and a frequent urge to urinate and pain while doing so, sweating, vomiting and fever.
Kidney stones can be divided into 2 groups:
1. The most common type of kidney stones that affects approximately 75% of adults in the US, are known as calcium stones. Calcium stones are more common in men than in women and appear between the ages of 20 and 30.
Calcium can combine with other substances, such as oxalate (the most common substance), phosphate, or carbonate to form the stone. Calcium and oxalate are present in small amounts in cranberry juice.
2. The remaining 25% of the adult population develop a combination of less common types of kidney stones including; calcium-phosphate stones or “brushite stones”, magnesium-sulfate stones or “struvite stones” and uric acid stones or “urate stones”.
Drinking cranberry juice has though shown to reduce the levels of brushite and therefore may help to reduce brushite stones, even though they are particularly rare to develop.
At the end of the day, cranberry juice does contain small amounts of calcium and oxalate and so it would be fair to assume that drinking it would raise the risk of developing calcium type kidney stones.
But the present time, there is not enough evidence to suggest cranberry juice should not be drunk through fear of developing kidney stones. The quantities involved are too small and too inconclusive to assume otherwise. You can also try a cranberry supplement in capsule form, which you can find in most any dietary supplement catalog.
The greatest risk for developing kidney stones is still dehydration, and drinking plenty of water on a daily basis is the most effective preventative measure you can take. There are so many foods and drinks that contain calcium and oxalate and to isolate each one as a potential cause of kidney stones would be ridiculous.
It would be safe to conclude that cranberry juice is not a recognised cure or preventative treatment for the most common form of kidney stones. But to suggest that by drinking it would increase your risk of developing them, would also be unrealistic.
The health benefits of drinking cranberry juice are far more significant and beneficial than the tiny risk of developing kidney stones. As with any medical complaints, always conduct your own research and seek professional, medical help.