The chances are good that you are exposed to some lithium almost every day of your life. That’s because this natural element is plentiful in nature. It is found in rocks and soil all over the earth. That means it ends up in our food and water supply. Trace amounts can be found in tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs, milk and mushrooms, to name just a few common food sources. Because levels of lithium in water are highly variable, researchers have been studying long-term exposure to this element and its impact on the brain.
The Latest Research on Lithium in Water:
People who drink water with higher levels of lithium may be less likely to develop dementia. That’s the conclusion of a large epidemiological study from Denmark (JAMA Psychiatry, online, Aug. 23, 2017). Investigators compared 73,731 patients with dementia to 733,653 people without dementia. The subjects ranged in age from 75 to 85 years of age.
Measuring Lithium in Water:
The researchers measured lithium in drinking water from 151 communities around the Denmark and mapped where patients and controls had lived from 1986 to through 2013. Those exposed to naturally higher levels of lithium in their drinking water were less likely to have a diagnosis of dementia.
Prior research has linked lithium treatment to better learning and memory in laboratory animals. In addition, people with bipolar disorder undergoing long-term lithium treatment appear to have a reduced risk for dementia. This study seems to confirm these previous observations.
Lithium vs. Bipolar Disorder, Depression and ADHD:
By coincidence, we wrote about the benefits of lithium for the brain just a few days ago. Over the last few years, evidence has been accumulating that low levels of lithium may be beneficial against a wide range of mental problems. If you would like to learn more about this history of lithium for what used to be called manic depression (now bipolar disorder), here is a link. You will also find out about low-dose lithium in water as a potential preventive against suicide. There is also interest in low doses of this element for treating depression and possibly even ADHD.