British scientists propose adding lithium to drinking water

It's no secret that fluoride has been added into the American drinking water for decades now.  Many will argue about the health risks and benefits of fluoridated water, but now British scientists are proposing that another supplement should be added to the water supply: lithium.


"Lithium is used to treat mania that is part of bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness). It is also used on a daily basis to reduce the frequency and severity of manic episodes. Manic-depressive patients experience severe mood changes, ranging from an excited or manic state (eg, unusual anger or irritability or a false sense of well-being) to depression or sadness," the Mayo Clinic website explains.  "It is not known how lithium works to stabilize a person's mood. However, it does act on the central nervous system. It helps you to have more control over your emotions and helps you cope better with the problems of living."


Studies on lithium have additionally linked it with potentially lower instances of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.


In an article published on July 27th in the British Journal of Psychiatry, scientists from Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London found a correlation between naturally occurring trace amounts lithium in drinking water of a population and lower instances of depression and suicide.


"It is promising that higher levels of trace lithium in drinking water may exert an anti-suicidal effect and have the potential to improve community mental health," Professor Anjum Memon, Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at BSMS and lead author of the study said in a press release.


He continued by saying, "In these unprecedented times of COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent increase in the incidence of mental health conditions, accessing ways to improve community mental health and reduce the incidence of anxiety, depression and suicide is ever more important."


Lithium is a naturally occurring element that is found in various levels within vegetables, grains, spices and drinking water due to its presence in many rocks, and even seawater. While it is fairly prevalent, it is generally found in trace amounts.


Professor Memon explained that "The levels of lithium in drinking water are far lower than those recommended when lithium is used as medicine although the duration of exposure may be far longer, potentially starting at conception," which clearly leaves room for questions concerning the levels at which benefits are derived from lithium.


The study proposes, based on "all the available evidence," that "randomized community trials of lithium supplementation of the water supply might be a means of testing the hypothesis, particularly in communities (or settings) with demonstrated high prevalence of mental health conditions, violent criminal behaviour, chronic substance misuse and risk of suicide."


This study was conducted by analyzing and reviewing all previous studies on the topic which had been conducted in Austria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, U.K., Japan and the United States.  In total,  the naturally occurring lithium levels in water samples and suicide rates in 1,286 regions/counties/cities were studied.