During the 50s and 60s in Australia, Fluoride was added to public water supply to reduce tooth decay.
Tooth decay is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases worldwide, and through water fluoridation the rate of tooth decay and other related conditions decreased dramatically.
Could the same be done to prevent dementia?
A new research suggests that people with higher levels of Lithium in their drinking water are at a lower risk of developing dementia.
The connection was made in a study conducted nationwide in Denmark, involving approximately 800,000 people.
Published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers believe that ‘higher long-term lithium exposure from drinking water may be associated with a lower incidence of dementia.’
This is the first research of it’s kind with the authors writing, “this is the first study, to our knowledge, to investigate the association between lithium in drinking water and the incidence of dementia.”
Lithium is a metal that is naturally found in water, though the concentrations it’s found in varies from area to area.
In this latest research, drinking water samples from 151 waterworks taken from 2009 to 2010 and 2013 – supplying approximately 42% of the Danish population.
Through the different regional Lithium concentrations, and the medical records of 73,731 people living with dementia and 733,653 who did not have dementia, researchers were able to correlate diagnoses with varying exposure to Lithium.
It’s been suggested that adding Lithium to public water supply could protect the brain in a similar way that Fluoride protects people’s teeth.
However, despite higher concentrations (15 micrograms or more per litre) of Lithium being linked with a decreased risk, it was also found that mid-level concentrations of 5-10 micrograms per litre seemed to increase dementia.
When compared to people drinking a low concentration of Lithium, the “mid-level” group were 22 per cent more likely to develop dementia but the “high level” group were 17 per cent less likely to have dementia in their later years.
Medically, Lithium is often used in treatments for bipolar disorder – showing that its benefits for some aspects of brain health is already known.
However, Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society says that more research needed because Lithium is used as a preventative measure for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Lithium triggers a number of useful responses in brain cells that means, theoretically, it might work as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.”
“However, despite some success in animals, there hasn’t been enough positive research of lithium in people with dementia to yet convince us that it works.”
“It’s almost too good to be true that something as cheap and plentiful as Lithium might have a role in future prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.”
“However, more research including clinical trials are needed, and until then we should not consider increasing lithium in drinking water.”
“In high doses, or even at low doses in some people, lithium can be toxic so it is important that people consult with their doctor before they consider taking it as a supplement.”
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Disclaimer: Please be aware the above article is merely information – not advice. If readers need medical advice, they should consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.