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Is Lithium Necessary For Life?

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#1 Michaelangelica



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Posted 19 November 2011 - 09:27 PM

Is Lithium an essential element?
If not
What biological roles does it play?

There is evidence to suggest that lithium is also an essential plant element (Macrae et al. 1993)

studies performed on populations living in areas with low Li levels in water supplies have been associated with higher rates of suicides, homicides, and the arrest rate for drug abuse and other crimes. Li appears to play a significant role in early fetal development as evidenced by high Li levels during the early ges-tational period. Biochemically, the mechanism of Li action involves multifactor and interconnected pathways with enzymes, hormones, vitamins, and growth and transforming factors. This body of evidence now appears sufficient to label Li as an essential element with the recommended RDA for a 70 kg adult of 1,000 mg/day.

"Lithium - Still interesting after all these years."
Gallicchio V.S.

Using data for 27 Texas counties from 1978–1987, it is shown that the incidence rates of suicide, homicide, and rape are significantly higher in counties whose drinking water supplies contain little or no lithium than in counties with water lithium levels ranging from 70–170 μg/L; the differences remain statistically significant (p<0.01) after corrections for population density.
The corresponding associations with the incidence rates of robbery, burglary, and theft were statistically significant withp<0.05. These results suggest that lithium has moderating effects on suicidal and violent criminal behavior at levels that may be encountered in municipal water supplies.
Comparisons of drinking water lithium levels, in the respective Texas counties, with the incidences of arrests for possession of opium, cocaine, and their derivatives (morphine, heroin, and codeine) from 1981–1986 also produced statistically significant inverse associations, whereas no significant or consistent associations were observed with the reported arrest rates for possession of marijuana, driving under the influence of alcohol, and drunkenness.
These results suggest that lithium at low dosage levels has a generally beneficial effect on human behavior, which may be associated with the functions of lithium as a nutritionally-essential trace element. Subject to confirmation by controlled experiments with high-risk populations, increasing the human lithium intakes by supplementation, or the lithiation of drinking water is suggested as a possible means of crime, suicide, and drug-dependency reduction at the individual and community level.


Low-dose lithium uptake promotes longevity in humans and metazoans.

Zarse K., Terao T., Tian J., Iwata N., Ishii N., Ristow M.
European Journal of Nutrition. 50 (5) (pp 387-389), 2011

. Because of lithium's stabilizing effect on glutamate receptors, scientists are also studying whether this medication can protect from the cell death that occurs in conditions such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and Alzheimer's.

Lithium is found in trace amounts in all soils primarily in the clay fraction, and to a lesser extent in the organic soil fraction [8], in amounts ranging from 7 to 200 μg/g [9,10]. It is present in surface water at levels between 1 and 10 μg/L, in sea water at 0.18 μg/L [9,10]. The lithium concentrations in ground water may reach 500 μg/L, in river water of lithium-rich regions of northern Chile, 1508 and 5170 μg/L, respectively [11]. In the latter regions, total Li intakes may reach 10 mg/day, without evidence of adverse effects to the local population. Still higher lithium levels, up to 100 mg/L are found in some natural mineral waters [1,12].

Lithium is taken up by all plants, although it appears not to be required for their growth and development. However, this question is not yet completely resolved, since, in the ppb range, stimulatory effects of lithium on plant growth have been observed [13].


#2 Rade



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Posted 25 November 2011 - 11:07 PM

See this link for suggestion that Li may regulate expression of specific genes along RNA or DNA:


Given that all living things have by definition RNA and/or DNA incorporated (even a virus has RNA), it may be possible that all living things require Li in trace amounts to regulate certain essential gene expressions ? Apparently the Li is found in the form of different types of salts in living organisms. An interesting question you ask.

#3 Michaelangelica



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Posted 27 March 2012 - 02:23 AM

I ask the question as I read a recent scientific publication that listed it as an unessential poison

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2012 Mar 22:1-12. [Epub ahead of print]

Neuroprotective effects of chronic exposure of SH-SY5Y to lowlithium concentration involve glycolysis stimulation, extracellular pyruvate accumulation and resistance to oxidative stress.

Nciri R, Desmoulin F, Allagui MS, Murat JC, Feki AE, Vincent C, Croute F.

Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire, Faculté de Médecine Purpan, Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III, 37 Allées Jules Guesde, Toulouse, France.

Recent studies suggest that lithium protects neurons from death induced by a wide array of neurotoxic insults, stimulates neurogenesis and could be used to prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

In this study, SH-SY5Y human neuronal cells were cultured in the absence (Con) or in the presence (Li+) of a low lithium concentration (0.5 mm Li2CO3, i.e. 1 mm lithium ion) for 25-50 wk. In the course of treatment, growth rate of Con and Li+ cells was regularly analysed using Alamar Blue dye. Resistance to oxidative stress was investigated by evaluating: (1) the adverse effects of high concentrations of lithium (4-8 mm) or glutamate (20-90 mm) on cell growth rate; (2) the levels of lipid peroxidation (TBARS) and total glutathione; (3) the expression levels of the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 protein. In addition, glucose metabolism was investigated by analysing selected metabolites in culture media and cell extracts by 1H-NMR spectroscopy.

As compared to Con, Li+ cells multiplied faster and were more resistant to stress, as evidenced by a lower dose-dependent decrease of Alamar Blue reduction and dose-dependent increase of TBARS levels induced by toxic doses of lithium and glutamate.

Total glutathione content and Bcl-2 level were increased in Li+ cells. Glucose consumption and glycolytic activity were enhanced in Li+ cells and an important release of pyruvate was observed. We conclude that chronic exposure to lithium induces adaptive changes in metabolism of SH-SY5Y cells involving a higher cell growth rate and a better resistance to oxidative stress.

Lithium And Bone Healing
ScienceDaily (July 30, 2007) — Researchers have described a novel molecular pathway that may have a critical role in bone healing and have suggested that lithium, which affects this pathway, has the potential to improve fracture healing.


Edited by Michaelangelica, 27 March 2012 - 04:26 AM.