A neglected supplemental mineral defends your brain cells as you age. It’s a shame so few people know about it. It can also improve your mood, boost personal energy and – perhaps — even offer longer life expectancy.
According to James M. Greenblatt, MD, lithium gets just a fraction of the attention it should attract. He calls the mineral a “Cinderella” nutrient because it has been “neglected and ignored.”
Shocking as it seems, there’s at least one study that shows that lithium, under certain circumstances, might drop your chances of Alzheimer’s by a whopping 600%.
That’s no typo.
A study in Brazil (admittedly, a small study) found that in older people who take antidepressants, taking lithium for that purpose dropped the chances of developing dementia and memory problems by a factor of six.
If you have bipolar depression or similar mood problems, your chances of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive difficulties are significantly increased. But it seems that taking lithium – often prescribed for these illnesses — may be able to protect you against this risk.1
Why hasn’t lithium won side acceptance as a daily supplement?
It could be because the public thinks of lithium as a drug for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It’s true that a form of lithium is prescribed by doctors for these ailments. But lithium is not a drug as such, it’s one of the basic elements of the periodic table. Healthy people can benefit from it just as we benefit from iron, copper, manganese, chromium and other metals.
In his book, Nutritional Lithium: A Cinderella Story, Dr. Greenblatt explains that the benefits of taking small amounts of lithium as a supplement are varied and without equal. He notes that it’s an “essential nutrient for promoting brain health.” And it “protects and stimulates the brain in complicated, multi-faceted ways.”2
Use It to Fight Inflammation
One of the most important cellular functions enhanced by lithium is protection against inflammation.
As I’ve often pointed out, chronic inflammation in any organ leads to serious damage. And persistent inflammation is especially problematic in brain tissue. Dr. Greenblatt explains that when inflammation is limited to a brief time, it can help heal injured brain tissue by bringing in white blood cells and other healing elements. But uncontrolled inflammation that the body is unable to turn off sets the stage for problems like depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s why so much medical research is now aimed at figuring out what drives inflammatory processes in the brain’s neurons. Restricting these processes can improve brain health and keep neurons from being destroyed by overactive immune cells.
Cytokines are chemical messengers that travel through the body and tell the immune system to increase or decrease inflammation. Lithium can help ease inflammation by slowing the production of the inflammatory cytokines called interleukin-1B and tumor necrosis factor or TNF.
While it curbs cytokines, Dr. Greenblatt explains, lithium can also cut back the destructive actions of microglia, the immune scavenger cells that are supposed to clean up debris from the brain — but which can become over-excited and injure neurons.
For example, research at Boston University shows that during the early development of Alzheimer’s disease, microglia can pick up tiny fibers of tau protein – a harmful substance that disrupts the function of neurons in the brain – and release them in a way that causes them to be absorbed by neurons.3
But there is some evidence that lithium prevents this destructive process.