Could lithium prevent dementia?

15 Sep

Yesterday’s New York Times carried a provocative piece by Anna Fels titled “Should We All Take a Bit of Lithium?” She reports on research suggesting that people who drink water with naturally higher lithium levels have lower rates of suicide.

The article includes this observation:

‘Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and one of the most active and informed proponents of lithium in the medical community, notes: “Lithium is, by far, the most proven drug to keep neurons alive, in animals and in humans, consistently and with many replicated studies.” And, he added, “If lithium prevents dementia, then we may have overlooked a very simple means of preventing a major public health problem.”’

Here is an editorial from The British Journal of Psychiatry titled “More good news about the magic ion: lithium may prevent dementia.” Here is the abstract:

“Lithium is an established treatment for affective disorders with good evidence of antisuicidal properties. Alzheimer’s disease rates are relatively reduced in patients with bipolar disorder on lithium and a recent trial of lithium in amnestic minimal cognitive impairment is indicative of potential benefits. This should stimulate further, larger-scale studies.”

Here is some background on the chemistry of lithium:

 

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