Lithium-Rich Foods--
Why You Need Them In Your Diet
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December  28, 2009, last updated May 20, 2014

By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor
and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and
other members of our Editorial Board.]


What is Lithium?

Lithium is an element found in nature, such as calcium
or potassium. Lithium is a natural-occurring soft metal
found in the layers of rock and soil on the earth.
Scientists believe that lithium was one of the first
elements in the universe, formed at the moment of
the Big Bang.

Lithium is in fact everywhere. Lithium exists in our soil,
in varying degrees around the world, and in our water
supply. Our water absorbs lithium when it comes into
contact with lithium-rich soil in river beds, streams and
underground aquifers. Because our food is grown in
soil and uses water to grow, lithium also occurs
naturally in our food supply. Animal-based foods and
plants vary in their ability to absorb and retain lithium.

Why Do We Need Lithium In Our Diets?

Lithium’s nutritional importance as a trace element
has long been suspected by researchers.  Several
research studies have confirmed that link between
high levels of lithium in tap water and low incidences
of  suicides, admissions to mental hospitals, murders
and rapes. In  1971, a Texas biochemist named Dr.
Earl Dawson noticed that the murder and suicide rates
around El Paso were significantly lower than the rest
of the state. After investigation, he discovered that
the lower rates of suicide, murder and admissions to
mental hospitals were linked to the high levels of
lithium found in El Paso’s water supply.   

Other research studies from around the world
reached similar results. A study from the University of
Oita in Japan found that low lithium levels were
associated with increases in rates of suicide and
depression.  The researchers examined the natural
lithium levels in the tap water of 18 communities south
of Japan. They then examined the suicide rates in the
18 communities.  They found that suicide rates were
lowest in those areas with the highest concentrations
of lithium in their tap water.  As they concluded, “Our
study suggests that very low levels of lithium in
drinking water can lower the risk of suicide. Very low
levels may possess an anti-suicidal effect.”




























Lithium was once used as a key ingredient in a soft
drink invented in 1929 by Charles Leipe Grigg, an
American from Price Branch, Missouri. He initially
called his drink "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime
Sodas". He later changed the name to " 7 Up Lithiated
Lemon-Lime" .

The “7” in the name comes from the number 7, which
is the atomic mass of lithium. He called his drink 7-Up,
presumably because of the mysterious ability of
lithium to elevate the mood. Later, lithium was
removed from the manufacturing process and
“lithiated from the name of the soda, but the “7 -Up”
part of the name stuck.

Today, lithium is recommended as a treatment for
several emotional and mental disorders, most notably
bipolar disorder. (Read more about
foods that help
bipolar disorder.
)

Lithium May Help Alzheimer’s

Three research studies in 1999 and 2000 from Wayne
State University of Medicine found that low levels of
lithium used to treat manic depression were also
effective in protecting the brain against
Alzheimer’s
disease
. A key protein needed to protect the brain
against Alzheimer’s is Bc1-2 (related to the B-cell
lymphoma/ leukemia-2 gene). Lithium is the first
substance found to increase the concentration of Bc1-
2 in brains tissue.

Alzheimer’s is characterized by the existence of
neurofibrillary “tangles” in the brain. These tangles
are enabled by a destructive protein called glycogen
synthase kinase 3b (GSK-3b). Lithium has been found
to decrease the supply of destructive GSK-3b in brain
tissue.

The Wayne State researchers also found that the
gray matter of patients treated with lithium over time
grew by approximately 3%, regenerating even after
loss of brain cells due to injury or disease. (Read more
about the
ideal diet to fight Alzheimer's disease.)

And in 2011, scientists from Germany and Japan
published a report ("Low-dose lithium uptake
promotes longevity in humans and metazoans") which
makes the case that populations exposed to lithium in
their water actually end up living longer.

Lithium-Rich Foods

Animal-derived foods contain more lithium than plant
foods, as a general matter. Eggs and milk contain the
highest concentrations of lithium. Among plants,
lithium is retained most easily in foods of the
nightshade family of plants, which include tomatoes
and cucumbers and mushrooms. Seaweed and kelp
often contain high levels of lithium.

Food                          Lithium Content (micrograms per
kg )
Milk                                7533
Eggs                               7373
Pork                               3844
Beef                               3428
Poultry                           2379
Soft Cheese                    2276
Herring                           1734
Butter                             1070

Tomatoes                       6707
Mushrooms                    5788
Cucumbers                     5017
Red Cabbage                  3579
Cauliflower                     3462
Kohlrabi                         2966
Asparagus                      2217
White Cabbage               1874
Potatoes                        1592
Apples                           1449
Bananas                         383

Black Tea                        3737
Paprika                           2316
Marjoram                        2289
Cocoa                             1728
Cinnamon                       1046
Coffee                             874

Instant Soups                 2513
Rice                                1260
Wheat Flour                    905
Rusk                               935
Toasted Bread                819
Barley                             995
Lentils                            748
Vanilla Pudding              639
Noodles                          628
Semolina                        538
Honey                             527
Bread Rolls                     317
Red Wine                        329
White Wine                     305
Pilsner                            296
Sugar                             199
Coca-Cola                       122
Brandy                            85


Update:

Is Too Much Lithium Bad for Your Health?

Although many people around the world can benefit
from increasing the amount of lithium in their diet,
overexposure to lithium can adversely affect your
health. One side effect of overexposure to lithium is
that it negatively affects
thyroid function. A 2011
study from a team of researchers led by Dr. Karin
Broberg of Lund University in Sweden looked at the
health of people living in the Andes mountain region of
Argentina, known for some of the highest
concentrations of lithium in drinking water in the
world. The study discovered an abnormally high
incidence of thyroid problems in women of the region.

Pregnant women need to be especially careful not to
consume too much lithium. Several studies, including
one conducted in 1990 at Monash Medical Center in
Victoria Canada have discovered that pregnant
women who take lithium supplements put their
unborn babies at greater risk for developing jaundice
and other conditions.


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Why Are My Hands Shaking?-Causes and Cures

Sugar-The Disease Connection

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Tomatoes are a natural source of lithium.