High levels of lithium in tap water linked to lowered rates of dementia

August 24, 2017 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from several institutions in Denmark has found what appears to be a link between the amount of lithium naturally present in tap water and dementia in the people that drink it. In their paper published in JAMA Psychiatry, the group describes how they tested tap water that reached approximately 800,000 people in Denmark and compared it with dementia rates to see if there might be any connection between the two. John McGrath with the University of Queensland and Michael Berk with Deakin University, both in Australia, offer an editorial piece in the same journal issue describing the work done by the team in Denmark and the possibility of adding lithium to drinking water to lower dementia rates.

Lithium is well known as a medication for people with bipolar disorder—it has also shown promise as a possible delay mechanism for Alzheimer's disease. Some have suggested it might also slow the progression of dementia in some people. It was this latter case that interested McGrath and Berk. They wondered if the amounts of naturally present in have an impact on the people that drink it. To learn more about that possibility, they tested water samples from water treatment facilities in 151 areas in Denmark. They then compared medical records of the people living in those same areas to see if there might be a connection between levels of lithium ingestion and dementia cases.

The researchers found that there were lower rates of dementia in areas where there were higher levels of lithium in the drinking water. They also found that there were higher rates of dementia in areas where there were medium levels of lithium in the water. This, the researchers contend, suggests that consuming high amounts of lithium on a regular basis might ward off the onset of dementia, though they also acknowledge that there could be other factors at play influencing progression rates for the people they studied. The group also assumed that all or most of the people living in the areas tested actually drank from their tap on a regular basis and presumably drank an average amount of it when they did so.

Explore further: Lithium in drinking water reduces suicide rates – possibly also as a result of medicine residue

More information: Association of Lithium in Drinking Water With the Incidence of Dementia, JAMA Psychiatry. Published online August 23, 2017. DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2362

Abstract
Importance. Results from animal and human studies suggest that lithium in therapeutic doses may improve learning and memory and modify the risk of developing dementia. Additional preliminary studies suggest that subtherapeutic levels, including microlevels of lithium, may influence human cognition.
Objective. To investigate whether the incidence of dementia in the general population covaries with long-term exposure to microlevels of lithium in drinking water.
Design, Setting, and Participants. This Danish nationwide, population-based, nested case-control study examined longitudinal, individual geographic data on municipality of residence and data from drinking water measurements combined with time-specific data from all patients aged 50 to 90 years with a hospital contact with a diagnosis of dementia from January 1, 1970, through December 31, 2013, and 10 age- and sex-matched control individuals from the Danish population. The mean lithium exposure in drinking water since 1986 was estimated for all study individuals. Data analysis was performed from January 1, 1995, through December 31, 2013.
Main Outcomes and Measures. A diagnosis of dementia in a hospital inpatient or outpatient contact. Diagnoses of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia were secondary outcome measures. In primary analyses, distribution of lithium exposure was compared between patients with dementia and controls.
Results. A total of 73 731 patients with dementia and 733 653 controls (median age, 80.3 years; interquartile range, 74.9-84.6 years; 44 760 female [60.7%] and 28 971 male [39.3%]) were included in the study. Lithium exposure was statistically significantly different between patients with a diagnosis of dementia (median, 11.5 µg/L; interquartile range, 6.5-14.9 µg/L) and controls (median, 12.2 µg/L; interquartile range, 7.3-16.0 µg/L; P < .001). A nonlinear association was observed. Compared with individuals exposed to 2.0 to 5.0 µg/L, the incidence rate ratio (IRR) of dementia was decreased in those exposed to more than 15.0 µg/L (IRR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.81-0.85; P < .001) and 10.1 to 15.0 µg/L (IRR, 0.98; 95% CI, 0.96-1.01; P = .17) and increased with 5.1 to 10.0 µg/L (IRR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.19-1.25; P < .001). Similar patterns were found with Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia as outcomes.
Conclusions and Relevance. Long-term increased lithium exposure in drinking water may be associated with a lower incidence of dementia in a nonlinear way; however, confounding from other factors associated with municipality of residence cannot be excluded.

Editorial: Could Lithium in Drinking Water Reduce the Incidence of Dementia? JAMA Psychiatry. Published online August 23, 2017. DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2336

Press release: phys.org/wire-news/265019057/s … o-dementia-risk.html

Related Stories

Lithium in drinking water reduces suicide rates – possibly also as a result of medicine residue

October 24, 2013
A study carried out back in June 2011 at the MedUni Vienna has shown that lithium contained in drinking water could reduce suicide rates. Previously, researchers had assumed that the majority of this lithium came from natural ...

Lack of REM sleep may lead to higher risk for dementia

August 23, 2017
Spending less time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and taking longer to enter REM sleep are separately associated with a higher risk of developing dementia.

Is dementia on the decline? Research suggests it might be

February 26, 2016
Despite fears that the coming silver tsunami will trigger a dementia epidemic, a surprising new study suggests that it may be possible to delay - or even prevent - some kinds of dementia.

Incidence of dementia in primary care increased in the Netherlands over 23 years

March 7, 2017
The incidence of registered dementia cases has increased slightly over a 23-year period (1992 to 2014) in the Netherlands, according to a study published by Emma van Bussel and colleagues from the Academic Medical Center ...

Study finds no lithium prescription residues in drinking water

September 19, 2016
Studies show that lithium contained in drinking water lowers suicide rates. This still holds true when taking account of drug residues of lithium prescriptions, as has been shown by a current study for Austria within the ...

Recommended for you

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
After a long day of work and carefully watching what you eat, you might expect your self-control to slip a little by kicking back and cracking open a bag of potato chips.

One in four girls is depressed at age 14, new study reveals

September 20, 2017
New research shows a quarter of girls (24%) and one in 10 boys (9%) are depressed at age 14.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gzurbay
not rated yet Aug 25, 2017
Lithium kills mold, fungus, - seems to me there is an excellent argument to be made for a fungal basis for some mental problems......

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.