Your Brain and Lithium

August 08, 2021

Lithium and Your Brain

You probably knew that lithium has been around for a long time as a treatment for manic-depressive disease. What you may not have known is that psychiatrists observing patients on long-term lithium have noted that they appear to live longer, and have less cognitive decline. And studies in Japan and Texas have found that the level of lithium in drinking water correlates with negative mortality. Aka: living longer.

If you want to get to the heart of it, lithium inhibits one enzyme called GSK-3 which you might consider your age acceleration enzyme. GSK-3 stands for glycogen syththase kinase-3. Its action is to add a phosphate group onto threonine and/or serine amino acids of the enzyme glycogen synthase, thus lowering your storage of glucose as glycogen and raising your blood glucose. Inhibition of GSK-3 then does the opposite. You lower your blood glucose. You wouldn't be surprised to know that GSK-3 plays a big role in diabetes, but curiously, also in Alzheimer's. But that's not all, you also modulate apoptosis with GSK-3, or natural cell death, innate immune responses. And lithium slows that modulation down, helping cells live longer, lowering chronic inflammation. These are good things.

Living longer isn't that important if your brain isn't working, so brain health is important. And lithium appears to do that. It increases the activity of BDNF, the peptide that instructs your neurons to connect with each other. And it decreases the accumulation of amyloid, one of the cardinal features of Alzheimer's. 

And heck, this isn't all that new. Lithia Springs in Georgia, a site with high lithium in the water was visited by Mark Twain and 4 US Presidents. All long before PubMed and Randomized Trials. They just noted that they felt better, thought better, and appeared to live longer. Medicine the old-fashioned way, by the seat of their pants.

Read the Life Extension article.

www.What will Work for me. I've been taking lithium on and off for years when I've seen earlier posts along these lines. I think I'm resolving that 1000 mcg a day might be on my long-term list. So, not just for my car or my deck blower, but for my brain as well.

References: Life Extension Magazine, Wikipedia, Amer J Psychiatry, Canadian Jr of Psychiatry, Appl Phys Nutr Metab.,International Jr Mol Sci,

Pop Quiz

1. What is lithium? Answer: a very light metal that has some curious properties to it. It is great for rechargeable batteries, and as such may help us slow down our climate change issues. But maybe even better, it's good for your brain.

2. How does lithium work on my brain? Answer: It inhibits GSK-3, an enzyme that is at the nexus of glucose metabolism.

3. Does lithium have any toxicity. Answer: At the low doses we are talking about, no.  Clearly, you can take too much. Folks with mania need their levels to be checked to make sure they don't get too high. There are some concerns about kidney function when taken at too high a dose.

4. How long is it safe to take lithium? Answer: There are many thousands of folks who have taken it for their entire lives.

5. What happens if it is naturally in the water in your town? Answer: you can mine it for battery use, or you can market it to people to come to the healing waters and make a spa.