Trace levels of lithium in drinking water reduce Alzheimer’s death rates in addition to two risk factors for the disease — obesity and Type 2 diabetes, according to a study.
The Canadian study dealt with lithium in Texas’s drinking water.
Researchers published their work in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease. It is titled “Examining the Relationship between Trace Lithium in Drinking Water and the Rising Rates of Age-Adjusted Alzheimer’s Disease Mortality in Texas.”
Lithium is a water-soluble metal in mineral springs and rocks formed by fires. Studies have shown that it can protect nerve cells. In addition, the element is the gold standard for treating bipolar disorder.
This finding, combined with the fact that lithium is used to treat bipolar disorder, prompted Canadian researchers to look at the relationship between trace levels of lithium in drinking water and Alzheimer’s patients’ rates of mortality, obesity and diabetes.
Researchers knew that information about lithium levels in Texas’s drinking water were easily available. They were able to collect it for 234 counties.
The team looked at 6,180 water samples collected from public wells since 2007. They compared the samples with changes in Alzheimer’s death rates. They adjusted the rates for such risk factors as sex, race, education, living in rural areas versus cities, air pollution, physical inactivity, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
“We found counties that had above the median level of lithium in tap water (40 micrograms per liter) experienced fewer increases in Alzheimer’s disease mortality over time,” Dr. Val Fajardo, a postdoctoral fellow at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, said in a press release. “Counties below that median level had even higher increases in Alzheimer’s deaths over time,” said Fajardo, the lead author of the study.
The results retained statistical significance even after adjusting for the risk factors.
Researchers also found a link between rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes and increases in Alzheimer’s death rates. An additional finding was that higher levels of trace lithium were associated with lower death rates.
The authors concluded “trace lithium in water is negatively linked with changes in AD [Alzheimer’s] mortality, as well as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, which are important risk factors for AD.”
The authors said additional research needs to be done on this subject.
“There’s so much more research we have to do before policy-makers look at the evidence and say, OK, let’s start supplementing tap water with lithium just like we do in some municipalities with fluoride to prevent tooth decay,” Fajardo said.