Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
6 Foods to Reverse Aging with Lithium
Could a microscopic dose of the psychoactive drug lithium, which occurs naturally in mineral water and certain foods, actually be the secret to less heart disease, better moods, and a longer life? In this article, I share how eating six foods may reverse aging with lithium.
What is Lithium?
Lithium is a naturally occurring mineral in food and water. It isn’t just a psychoactive medication.
In fact, lithium is increasingly being recognized as an essential nutrient to human health. Indeed, it is now recommend that we get 1 mg daily of this nutrient daily. To put this tiny 1 mg dose in perspective, most physicians start patients at 600 mg daily when treating mood disorders.
Lithium for mood disorders
During my medical school training at Johns Hopkins in the early 1990s, I remember my first exposure to lithium being used as a drug. Many of our patients were on lithium for bipolar disorder, depression, or headaches. Without lithium, these people couldn’t function.
Lithium had a profound calming effect. It also helped them be less stressed and more focused. Until I recently came across a number or articles on its life-extending benefits, I thought it was just a mood-stabilizing drug.
Lemon, Lime and Lithium
Lithium isn’t just a drug for people suffering from bipolar, depression, or migraines. In fact, the original 1929 recipe for 7-Up contained lithium. I suspect that early 7-Up drinkers were less stressed, less depressed, and overall just felt better. Perhaps it was this calming effect that made this soda pop so popular.
Perhaps this is also why — thousands of years ago — Greek physicians treated their patients with mineral water, which is naturally high in lithium…
Is there something in the water?
While mainstream media has yet to pick up on the lithium story, quietly researchers have been publishing studies on naturally occurring lithium for years. Many studies have shown that naturally occurring lithium helps people (as well as animals, worms, and flies) live longer and healthier lives.
For example, studies show that cities around the world with mineral water, high in natural lithium, have low rates of suicide and depression. When it comes to longevity, a study of 1,206,172 people, showed that those with the most lithium in their drinking water lived much longer.
But lithium’s benefits extend far beyond depression or longevity. Worldwide, people who drink “hard water” — or natural mineral water — have been shown to not only live longer but also have less cardiovascular disease.
How can you reverse aging with lithium?
There are a few theories about how microscopic doses of naturally occurring lithium may extend life. For example, some researchers have reported that the stress reduction effects of lithium may be the answer. As readers well know, stress at least doubles your risk of a heart attack.
A second theory is that lithium increases NAD+, which is well-known to increase longevity. How to naturally boost NAD levels is a topic I discussed in a previous article.
A third theory is that lithium prevents age related degeneration of the mitochondria. For those unfamiliar with the mitochondria, it is the power plant portion of the cell. Without a normally functioning mitochondria, an organism can no longer produce energy and soon dies.
Lithium May Preserve Brain Function
As an added bonus, naturally occurring lithium may also help to preserve brain function. For example, recent evidence suggests lithium may protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s. In animals, low dose lithium has been shown to enhance cognitive performance.
What Are the Side Effects of Lithium?
High-dose lithium therapy, used to treat bipolar, depression, or migraines has many side effects. At doses of 600 mg or more per day, lithium may cause nausea, tremors, or drowsiness. However, with the naturally occurring 1-2 mg daily dose from mineral water, vegetables, fruit, and legumes, the only side effects seem to be the good ones.
6 Foods to Reverse Aging with Lithium
While the recommended daily amount of lithium is 1 mg, studies of cities with high levels of naturally occurring lithium from mineral water suggest that 2 mg may be the optimal dose for health and longevity. In addition to drinking mineral water, below are six foods to reverse aging with lithium.
1. Legumes, such as lentils, beans and peas
Legumes contain some of the highest amounts of lithium found in food. As I discussed in blog 151, one study showed that legumes were the number one food to live to age 100.
In addition to lithium, tomatoes are also high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, and countless other essential nutrients. One critical nutrient of tomatoes, lycopene, is best absorbed by cooking tomatoes.
Mushrooms are one of the few foods high in naturally occurring vitamin D. In addition to lithium and vitamin D, mushrooms are also packed with the critical B vitamins.
While cucumbers are often ignored by many nutritionists, cucumbers are a vegetable that have high anti-inflammatory properties. As discussed in blog #197, a low inflammation diet may be the secret to living to 110 according to medical studies.
Cabbage is a member of the all-important cruciferous family of vegetables. As I covered way back in blog #19, when it comes to cancer prevention, the cruciferous family of vegetables may be the most important.
For those not only looking for natural sources of lithium, but for weight loss as well, look no further than cauliflower. As I discussed in blog #143, cauliflower is the best vegetable for weight loss. Additionally, cauliflower is part of the cruciferous family so you get cancer prevention with this vegetable as well.
Other Natural Sources of Lithium
In addition to mineral water and the six foods mentioned above, there are also trace amounts of lithium in fish, milk and eggs. However, if you are shooting for the 2 mg natural daily dose of lithium, you’ll probably need mineral water or the six foods above.
A Contrarian View of Lithium
While carefully designed animal studies have clearly shown a health and longevity benefit with lithium, the same may not be the case with humans. For example, the longevity boost seen from mineral water in human studies may have more to do with all of the calcium and magnesium in “hard water.”
Also, foods highest in lithium, like fruit, vegetables, and legumes, are good for you in so many other ways as well. Thus, people getting the highest doses of naturally occurring lithium may also be the people drinking the most water and eating the healthiest foods.
Take Home Message
While there’s no “fountain of youth” that can restore us to our younger selves, we may be able to reverse aging with lithium. When it comes to the life-extending benefits of lithium, you will never get there from a pill. The key is to get it naturally from water, fruit, vegetables, and legumes.
What is your take on naturally occurring lithium?
Please leave your thoughts and questions below. I’ll do my best to answer every question in a timely manner.
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Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.