Taking Low-Dose Lithium For Brain Health – and for Protection Against Dementia

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by Nils Osmar. March 9, 2022 – Medical Disclaimer

Can dementia be prevented, or significantly slowed down in its progression? There’s evidence that it can, and that taking very low doses of the mineral lithium could an effective way of doing so.

Lithium has known benefits for brain health, which correlate interestingly with a difference in crime rates in communities that have higher or lower levels in their ground water. In a study that looked at 27 counties in Texas, people whose natural water supply had the lowest amount of lithium had significantly greater levels of suicides, homicides, and rape compared to areas where drinking water had higher levels. Communities with higher levels of the mineral has nearly forty percent fewer suicides when compared with communities with lower levels.

Some researchers have suggested adding tiny doses of lithium to the diet or water supply as a way of reducing psychiatric disorders, improving base line mental health in the community, and (possibly) preventing dementia.

A Recent Study

In a study published in 2019, researchers describe a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which low-dose lithium was given to patients with mild cognitive impairment After two years, cognition remained stable in the patients treated with lithium, while patients who were given a placebo exhibited continuous decline.

Four years into the study, five out of 31 subjects in the group receiving lithium had progressed to dementia. Almost twice as many people in the placebo group had done so.

Here’s a quote from the study. Emphases are mine:

Lithium salts have a well-established role in the treatment of major affective disorders. More recently, experimental and clinical studies have provided evidence that lithium may… exert neuroprotective effects.

In animal and cell culture models, lithium has been shown to increase neuronal viability through a combination of mechanisms that includes the inhibition of apoptosis, regulation of autophagy, increased mitochondrial function, and synthesis of neurotrophic factors.

In humans, lithium treatment has been associated with humoral and structural evidence of neuroprotection, such as increased expression of anti-apoptotic genes, inhibition of cellular oxidative stress, synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), cortical thickening, increased grey matter density, and hippocampal enlargement…

A recent placebo-controlled clinical trial in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) showed that long-term lithium treatment may actually slow the progression of cognitive and functional deficits, and also attenuate Tau hyperphosphorylation in the MCI-AD continuum.

The abstract ends on a hopeful note, but ends with a call for additional trials.

Polypeptides from Colostrum

Taking lithium along with polypeptides from colostrum may provide even more benefits. In an article published by Life Extension, the authors write:

… Two natural factors have been discovered that protect against structural brain cell alterations observed in the elderly. These new neuro-protectors are microdose lithium and a colostrum-derived proline-rich polypeptide.

Published studies reveal how these two nutrients can stabilize cognitive function, slow Alzheimer’s progression and possibly reverse it…. Lithium acts by inhibiting an enzyme called GSK-3 that causes the formation of abnormaltau proteins and neurofibrillary tangles. These “tangles” destroy brain cells and impair memory.

Proline-rich polypeptide alters the expression of genes involved in beta amyloid formation and in tau protein damage that contributes to brain cell destruction.

Many people take 5 mg of lithium a day. This is the amount found naturally in the water supply in many areas. It is hundreds of times lower than the amount used by psychiatrists in treating patients diagnosed with mental illness.

What I’m Doing

I take 5 mg. of lithium orotate three days a week as a way of supportive brain health, and one of several preventative measures aimed at staving off dementia. Since it operates partly by promoting autophagy, I usually take it in the mornings when I’m fasting. I sometimes also take a small scoop of colostrum.

Speaking anecdotally, some people have posted comments online saying they noticed a dramatic improvement in mood and mental clarity, when taking lithium. I haven’t noticed much of anything, possibly because my mood’s already fine. But it makes sense to me to take it as one of many strategies for decreasing my odds of dementia.

Note: For those taking low dose lithium in the hopes of preventing dementia, it appears necessary to take breaks from lithium, for it to remain effective. This is the reason I don’t take it every day.

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