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.


Related:
Bipolar Disorder-Top 10 Foods That Help

Foods That Fight Depression

Why Are My Hands Shaking?-Causes and Cures

Sugar-The Disease Connection

Are Diet Sodas Bad for Your Health?

Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics

Ideal Breakfast for Arthritis

Traces of Metal in Your Food-Top 7 Health Dangers
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Tomatoes are a natural source of lithium.