In a new study from the University of Cambridge, researchers have found a link suggesting that lithium could decrease the risk of developing dementia, which affects nearly one million people in the UK.
The researchers analyzed the health records of nearly 30,000 patients. The patients were all over the age of 50.
The team found that patients who received lithium were less likely to develop dementia than those who did not, although the overall number of patients who received lithium was small.
Their findings support the possibility that lithium could be a preventative treatment for dementia.
Dementia is the leading cause of death in elderly Western populations, but no preventative treatments are currently available: more than 55 million people worldwide have dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease the most common form.
Previous studies have found lithium as a potential treatment for those who have already been diagnosed with dementia or early cognitive impairment.
Lithium is a mood stabilizer usually prescribed for conditions such as bipolar affective disorder and depression.
In the study, the team used data from patients who accessed mental health services from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2019.
Of the 29,618 patients in the study cohort, 548 patients had been treated with lithium and 29,070 had not. Their mean age was just under 74 years, and approximately 40% of patients were male.
The team found for the group that had received lithium, 53, or 9.7%, were diagnosed with dementia. For the group that had not received lithium, 3,244, or 11.2%, were diagnosed with dementia.
After controlling for other factors, researchers found lithium use was linked to a lower risk of dementia, both for short and long-term users.
However, since the overall number of patients receiving lithium was small, larger clinical trials would be needed to establish lithium as a potential treatment for dementia.
The study supports others who have suggested lithium might be helpful in dementia.
Further experimental medicine and clinical studies are now needed to see if lithium really is helpful in these conditions.
If you care about dementia risk, please read studies that lack of this vitamin may lead to dementia, and findings of common mental issue that could be a sign of high dementia risk.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about caffeine and brain health: what you need to know, and results showing this kind of work could increase your dementia risk by more than 50%.
The study is published in PLoS Medicine and was conducted by Dr. Shanquan Chen et al.
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