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Lithium in drinking water linked with lower suicide rates

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Normally happening lithium-containing drinking water may have an enemy of suicide – as per another investigation from Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London.

Published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the study collated exploration from around the world and found that geographical areas with generally high levels or concentration of lithium-containing drinking water had correspondingly lower suicidal rate.

Professor Anjum Memon, Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at BSMS and lead author of the study, said: “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. The prevalence of mental health conditions and national suicide rates are increasing in many countries. Worldwide, over 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and suicide is the leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24 years.”

“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.”

Occasionally Lithium is mentioned as the ‘Magical Ion’, which is generally and adequately used as a medication for the treatment and prevention of manic and depressive behaviour, and also used to stabilize the mood and reduce the risk of suicide in people with mental illness. It has anti-aggressive properties which reduce impulsivity, aggression, violent criminal behaviour and chronic substance abuse.

Lithium is a natural element which is found in different amount within vegetables, grains, spices and drinking water. It is available in trace amount in virtually all rocks, and is assembled by enduring into soils, ground and standing water, and this is how lithium appears into the drinking water.

The medical advantages and healing power of natural lithium in water have been known for quite a long time. The Lithia Springs, an old Native American scared therapeutic spring, with its regular lithium-containing water, is prestigious for its wellbeing giving properties. In fact, the popular soft drink 7-Up contained lithium when it was made in 1929.

Ongoing researches claim that lithium contains the power to reduce incidence of Alzheimer’s disorders and different dementias. This raises the potential for its protective use to reduce the risk of dementia.

Professor Allan Young, Chair of Mood Disorders at King’s College London, said: “This synthesis and analysis of all available evidence confirms previous findings of some individual studies and shows a significant relationship between higher lithium levels in drinking water and lower suicide rates in the community. 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. These findings are also consistent with the finding in clinical trials that lithium reduces suicide and related behaviours in people with a mood disorder.”

Professor Memon added: “Next steps might include testing this hypothesis by randomised community trials of lithium supplementation of the water supply, particularly in communities (or settings) with demonstrated high prevalence of mental health conditions, violent criminal behaviour, chronic substance abuse and risk of suicide. This may provide further evidence to support the hypothesis that lithium could be used at the community level to reduce or combat the risk of these conditions.”

Professor Carmine Pariante from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, commented: “This study shows that the boundaries between medication and nutritional interventions are not as rigid as we used to think, opening up the possibility of new treatments that span both domains. More knowledge of the beneficial properties of lithium and its role in regulating brain function can lead to a deeper understanding of mental illness and improve the wellbeing of patients with depression and other mental health problems.”

The study involved systematic review and meta-analysis of all previous studies on the subject — conducted in Austria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, UK, Japan and USA — which correlated naturally occurring lithium levels in drinking water samples and suicide rates in 1,286 regions/counties/cities in these countries.

Source / Journal DOI: 10.1192/bjp.2020.128
Via / Provided by: University of Sussex

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