Forget Cranberry Juice. This Biochemist Says He Has an Answer to Frequent Urinary Tract Infections

Personal Health

Urinary tract infections (UTIs), also called bladder infections or cystitis, are the bane of many women’s lives. They are the most frequent bacterial infection in women with half of women having at least one in their lives and up to 10 percent having a UTI in a given year. Worse, UTIs are recurrent and nearly half of sufferers get a second infection within a year of the first one. Some bacterial strains are clearly developing antibiotic resistance.

This fall, the medical profession added some more bad news for those with UTIs. Cranberries which have always been recommended as a natural way to prevent UTIs, well don’t. “Nursing home residents who took high-potency cranberry capsules did not have fewer episodes of urinary tract infection than those taking a placebo, researchers discovered,” reported CNN on research which ran in the Journal of the American Medical Association or JAMA.

Biochemist Richard Katz knows a lot about cranberries and UTIs. A few generations ago, his family operated Morris April Brothers in Tuckahoe, New Jersey who produced the Eatmor brand of cranberry sauce, and competed with giant Ocean Spray. More recently he has developed and marketed an unusual treatment for UTIs, inspired by his own wife’s infections he told me in an interview. 

Rosenberg: Were you surprised by the recent JAMA research discrediting cranberries as a prevention of UTIs?

Katz: Not at all! Many people do not remember but HEW secretary Arthur Flemming announced in 1959 that the U.S. cranberry crop had been tainted with 3-AT, a triazole herbicide also known as aminotriazole which had been used too late in the growing season. The market totally collapsed. The marketing campaign claiming that cranberries were useful to prevent UTIs was launched in response. It has been claimed so often since then people never questioned it.

Rosenberg: Reports said that growers sought a year-round market to ensure against another collapse. Before the 3-AT debacle, the only market had been holiday timed cranberry dishes.

Katz: There were actual claims about UTIs on bottles back then though I don’t know if photos or bottles are still available.

Rosenberg: Speaking of herbicides, the ubiquity of glyphosate today known as Roundup despite millions of critics suggests there are less cautions today.

Katz: 3-AT had been linked to tumors in hamsters by Rutgers researchers in 1959 and the Delaney clause to The Food Additives Amendment of 1958 had recently been added that prohibits a substance as an additive that causes cancer in humans or animals.

Rosenberg: So, what gave you the ideas behind your UTI theory and product?

Katz: From the time I was a grad student I have always worked with and been intrigued with yeasts.  A component of the yeast cell wall called mannan is readily recognized by the immune system and also readily attaches to other micro-organisms. It  seemed to me that the problem with the UTI bacterium which is usually E. Coli is that the body’s immune system is not recognizing it. I  thought if mannan from the yeast attached to it, in other words if it looked more like a yeast cell, it would be “killed” by the immune system. First I tested my theory on myself with animal feed that contained mannan and found that shards of it were indeed present in urine after ingestion, supporting my theory. My wife then tried ingesting mannan and it not only seemed to clear up her UTIs—they seem to have not returned. 

Rosenberg: If your theory is sound and the product (called SuperMannan) works,  why would the medical profession not embrace it? Currently antibiotics are given for UTIs and they are developing resistance. Moreover, the FDA has raised serious questions about the safety of fluoroquinoline antibiotics which are often prescribed for UTIs. Antibiotics also kill the “good” bacteria and can cause vaginal infections, diarrhea and other problems. A non-antibiotic treatment would be welcomed.

Katz: Well as we saw with cranberry juice, conventional medical wisdom that has been embraced for decades can be wrong. Even the conventional wisdom of why mainly women not men get UTIs—it is said their urethra is shorter—is pretty obviously false. It is always said "their urethra is shorter." I was trained as a skeptical biophysicist and so eventually it occurred to me to wonder "And just how much shorter would that be, Doc?"  Like, did you measure it?

When I saw that SuperMannan works, I naturally wrote to big drug companies. Instead of disputing the science, one drug giant actually wrote back that women’s health problems like UTIs were not an “unmet need.”

Rosenberg: You say in the case of your wife’s UTIs, they did not return at all. Why would that be?

Katz: The immune system “remembers”; that is what the immune system is all about!

Rosenberg: Your theory is interesting but many women will see red flags when they hear the word “yeast.”  Vaginal yeast infections can be as bothersome as UTIs.

Katz:  Yes, candida yeast infections are common but caused by a different species of Candida yeast--though women who are allergic to yeast should not take SuperMannan. The incidence of yeast infections has increased dramatically over the last few decades, ironically because of the overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

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