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Lithium in Water Associated with Slower Rate of Alzheimer’s Disease Deaths

December 5, 2017
St Catharines, Canada – Trace elements of lithium in drinking water can slow death rates from Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at the Brock University, Canada have found.

Rates of diabetes and obesity, which are important risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, also decrease if there is a particular amount of lithium in the water, says the study, published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Postdoctoral fellow Val Fajardo and Rebecca MacPherson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, collected statistics on various lithium levels in drinking water in 234 counties across Texas. Lithium is a water-soluble alkali metal found in igneous rocks and mineral springs. It is commonly used to treat bipolar and other mood disorders, but at much higher doses than what occurs naturally in drinking water.

The research team, which included Associate Professor of Health Sciences Paul LeBlanc, compared lithium levels naturally found in tap water with Alzheimer’s disease mortality rates, along with the incidence of obesity and diabetes, in the Texas counties. “We found counties that had above the median level of lithium in tap water (40 micrograms per litre) experienced less increases in Alzheimer’s disease mortality over time, whereas counties below that median level had even higher increases in Alzheimer’s deaths over time,” says Fajardo.

The frequency of obesity and Type 2 diabetes also went down when the drinking water contained similar lithium levels, the researchers found. Fajardo says he and his team focused on Texas because data on lithium levels were “freely available.”

Previous studies have demonstrated lithium’s ability to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and diabetes. “However, we are one of the first groups to show that lithium’s potential protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and diabetes may translate to the population setting through very low levels of lithium in tap water,” says Fajardo.

The Brock research comes on the heels of a study from the University of Copenhagen in August 2017 (see here) linking high lithium levels in drinking water to decreases in dementia rates. But Fajardo warns it’s too early to start advising authorities to add lithium to drinking water. “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,” he says.

Postdoctoral fellow Val Fajardo, left, and Rebecca MacPherson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, are researching the impact of lithium in drinking water on Alzheimer’s disease.

 

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NOTES FOR EDITORS
Full study: Fajardo VA, Fajardo VA, LeBlanc PJ, MacPherson REK (2018) Examining the Relationship between Trace Lithium in Drinking Water and the Rising Rates of Age-Adjusted Alzheimer’s Disease Mortality in Texas, J Alzheimers Dis 61 425–434 (doi: 10.3233/JAD-170744)

Contact
Name: Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University
Tel: +1 905 688 5550 ext.5353
Email: ddakin@brocku.ca

ABOUT THE JOURNAL OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (j-alz.com) is an international multidisciplinary journal to facilitate progress in understanding the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, genetics, behavior, treatment and psychology of Alzheimer’s disease. The journal publishes research reports, reviews, short communications, book reviews, and letters-to-the-editor. Groundbreaking research that has appeared in the journal includes novel therapeutic targets, mechanisms of disease and clinical trial outcomes. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has an Impact Factor of 3.731 according to the 2016 Journal Citation Reports (Clarivate Analytics, 2017). The journal is published by IOS Press (iospress.com).