Lithium is known as a treatment for certain psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder, but new research suggests the naturally occurring chemical may also have the power to prevent or delay the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists in Denmark found that high amounts of lithium in drinking water lowered the number of dementia cases in communities overall, and suggest adding lithium to water on a larger scale could reduce the global incidence of dementia.
The effect wasn’t the same for different levels of the chemical: moderate lithium levels in drinking water, between 5.1 and 10 micrograms per liter, increased the risk of dementia by 22 percent, compared with low levels of the chemical.
The study, now published online in JAMA Psychiatry, looked at the medical records of 73,731 people who had dementia and 733,653 people without it. These people lived in 151 areas of the country, and the tap water was tested for lithium levels in each area.
In addition, past research has shown that lithium has been able to protect the brain cells of mice and fruit flies from an Alzheimer’s disease model, The BBC reported.