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Researchers found that women who drank plenty of water had a significant reduction in their odds for a recurrence of the common infections.
"This study provides convincing evidence that increased daily intake of water can reduce frequent UTIs," said lead researcher Dr. Thomas Hooton. He's clinical professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Miami.
Water appears to work its magic "presumably via the flushing effect of increased urine volume, but there may be other effects we are not aware of," Hooton said in a university news release.
"In this study, women were included if they'd had three or more episodes in the prior year -- definitely painful and life-disrupting," noted Rabin, who wasn't involved in the new study.
"Drinking more water to improve one's health is probably safe and, if tap is used, pretty inexpensive," she added. "Producing additional urine -- and thus increasing voiding frequency -- may raise one's awareness of the importance of keeping the bladder as empty as possible, which can help reduce UTIs."
The new trial included 140 younger, premenopausal women in Europe who had all experienced high numbers of recurrent UTIs. Their total daily fluid intake at the start of the study totaled less than six 8-ounce glasses per day.
During the year-long trial, half of the women drank just over six cups more each day of water, in addition to their regular daily fluid intake. Intake remained the same for the other half of women.
The reduction in UTI frequency for those who drank the additional water was significant. While the average number of UTIs during the study period was 3.2 for women who did not increase their water intake, it fell to 1.7 for those women whose intake rose, the findings showed.
There was also a significant reduction in antibiotic use among the women who drank more water. Antibiotics are the main treatment of UTIs, and cutting down on the overuse of antibiotics is key to curbing the emergence of microbes resistant to the drugs.
Hooton said the trial was long overdue.
"While it's been widely assumed that increased water intake helps to flush out bacteria and reduce the risk of recurrent UTI, there has been no supporting research data showing such a beneficial effect of water," he said.
The study did not determine the ideal amount of daily water intake to reduce the risk of UTIs, or whether boosting water intake would help women who are at a lower risk of recurrent UTIs than the group chosen for this trial.
Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler is a urology specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She said the trial highlights the notion that "water is the preferred beverage for overall bladder and kidney health." She added that "the amount that we each need depends on the environment, activity level and diet."
The study was published online Oct. 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine. It was funded by Danone, Inc., the maker of Evian bottled water.
-- Robert Preidt
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