Lithium and Cognitive Health
Lithium helps maintain youthful, healthy cognition and memory by inhibiting normal, age-related changes in the brain—and can even help protect brain function in healthy individuals.1-3 Here’s how:
A healthy brain naturally creates certain types of proteins. These proteins can end up affecting cognition and memory—so your brain has natural, built-in processes for removing them.4 But this clearing process declines over time as part of normal aging. When that happens, these proteins can begin to accumulate.5
A Bodyguard for Your Brain
Preclinical studies indicate that lithium helps support the breakdown of these accumulated brain proteins and promotes the brain’s normal process for clearing cellular debris from your brain cells.6
Lithium also helps protect your brain’s neurons (this is called a neuroprotective effect). It does so by inhibiting an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase-3, or simply GSK3.7 This enzyme is involved in many different kinds of cellular functions—one of which happens to be the way your brain metabolizes glucose, or blood sugar.8 So lithium may help maintain already-healthy cerebral glucose metabolism.
Lithium and a Healthy Life Span
While nothing is certain, lithium may be a great addition to your longevity regimen as well. The reason possibly has to do with telomeres, an emerging indicator for lifespan and cellular vitality. Telomeres cap the outside ends of our chromosomes and protect our DNA from deterioration—think of them as the little plastic or metal endcaps on a pair of shoelaces.
Every time a cell replicates, those endcaps get shorter—and eventually, telomeres become too short to do their job. So the theory is that the longer you can maintain long, healthy telomeres, the better your chances of a robust lifespan are going to be.
Why Lithium: Research has observed that some people on long-term, high-dose lithium regimens have longer-than-expected telomeres.9 And one study found that lithium levels found in tap water (much lower doses) were modestly associated with human mortality and lifespan.10 There’s also some evidence that lithium may inhibit cellular senescence—a natural part of aging where cells no longer function optimally—as well as help promote healthy circadian rhythms.11,12
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