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Lithium Effective in Alzheimer's disease

Nutrition Review

By CP Staff

Lithium, used for over 50 years to treat manic depression, has been shown to block the production of key proteins involved in Alzheimer's, a dementia-causing disease that affects 18 million people worldwide. According to a study published in the May 22 issue of the British journal Nature, when given to mice with Alzheimer's, lithium blocked the buildup of abnormal proteins called amyloid plaque, as well as clusters of malformed nerve cells called neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid protein deposits suffocate nerve cells by blocking transport of nutrients and oxygen, while neurofibrillary tangles smother cells, causing neurons to die. “The identification of a widely prescribed, relatively safe drug with the potential to slow or prevent the onset of AD is significant,” said lead study author Dr. Peter Klein. “Our current study, combined with earlier work, shows that the two processes associated with the progression of Alzheimer's disease — the build-up of protein deposits known as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles — can be inhibited with lithium. Our findings have interesting implications for the potential use of lithium in preventing or disrupting the growth of these plaques and tangles in patients, since lithium is known to be relatively safe in humans when administered properly.” Lithium is commonly used for stabilizing mood swings, mania and depression. Lithium orotate is 20 times more bioactive than other lithium salts, allowing lower dosages that greatly reduce potential side effects. Nature 2003; 423:435-439.