Lithium Extends Lifespan

Lithium is an essential nutrient

Most people know lithium as the “drug” given to bipolar patients. In reality it is not a drug but a mineral, and in bipolar disorder it’s given in high doses: the target dose is usually 900 to 1,800 mg a day.

However, lithium is a required nutrient. “The available experimental evidence now appears to be sufficient to accept lithium as essential; a provisional RDA for a 70 kg adult of 1000 μg/day is suggested.” (1000 μg = 1 mg.)

This is, as can be seen, much lower than the dose given in bipolar.

Furthermore, low levels of lithium in drinking water have been associated with violence, suicide, and homicide. See, for example, Lithium in Tap Water and Suicide Mortality in Japan.

Lithium increases lifespan in humans and animals

A study looked at epidemiological evidence of an effect of lithium on human lifespan, and found it. Low-dose lithium uptake promotes longevity in humans and metazoans. Mortality rates were inversely associated with lithium concentrations in tap water; furthermore, the lower mortality rate remained after adjusting for suicide, showing that lithium provides some other health benefit not strictly related to mental health.

Since this association does not show causality, the same authors used low-level lithium, at about the same concentration found in the tap water, and tested it on the worm C. elegans. It extended their lifespan, showing causality.

Lithium promotes autophagy

Lithium seems to extend lifespan by promoting autophagy, the cellular self-cleaning process that rids cells of junk and is crucial to lifespan extension. It does this by an mTOR-independent mechanism, meaning that it does not depend on fasting. Through autophagy, lithium has been found to delay progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

How much lithium do you need?

As stated above, about 1 mg a day is a suggested RDA for lithium. Dose for bipolar patients are hundreds or thousands times higher, but there’s considerable risk of toxicity at those doses, while there appears to be little for low doses. A common formulation, lithium orotate, provides 5 mg lithium.

I generally take one 5 mg tablet of lithium orotate once every few days.


Leave a Comment:

SimianOutcast says August 15, 2014

Good stuff. Soon I’m going to need a personal assistant to keep track of all my supplements, like Ray Kurzweil.

Wojciech Majda says August 20, 2014

Interesting concept. There’s so much we don’t know yet what our requirements for optimal performance are… We have the same issue with plants, that’s why not many people grow high vegetables. I found your blog through D&P I’m glad Mike link to your website.

Joshua says February 25, 2015

One question: since it seems that almost all lithium supplements offer about 5 mg per pill, and the ideal dosage is 1 mg/day, how to handle that? Cut each pill into 5? 🙂
The most convenient way would be to just take 1 every 5 days…not sure if that’s ideal or not.

    P. D. Mangan says February 25, 2015

    I take 1 tab every other day. Where did you get the 1 mg ideal from?

Joshua says February 26, 2015

The last paragraph of your article here, first sentence: “As stated above, about 1 mg a day is a suggested RDA for lithium.”

    P. D. Mangan says February 26, 2015

    Ha, good one, I couldn’t remember what I wrote in my own article. RDA doesn’t necessarily translate to ideal, I would say, but there isn’t much else to go on. As a mineral, I’m thinking that lithium will not be eliminated quickly from the body, hence my ~5 mg every other day that I do. Toxicity doesn’t occur until much higher doses are used, such as those used in therapy of bipolar.

Joshua says May 8, 2015

So I tried me some low-dose lithium this winter/spring, taking a 5 mg tablet once every 5 days. I’d have to say that I think I noticed a slight difference in mood, once I’d been taking it for 4-6 weeks. I feel like it smoothed my rough edges out some — I generally felt more relaxed, felt comfortable walking more slowly, didn’t get as aggravated at people blaring their horns (pet peeve of mine — alas that I live in NYC). I think I see now why those studies show that areas with more lithium in the water supply have lower crime rates.
All this sounds like a good thing, but I didn’t like it in some ways. I feel like having a bit more aggressive mind-set is helpful for making myself move fast, get things done, and most of all, it’s great for setting new PR’s in the weight room. I’d felt a bit more lackadaisical about my lifting sessions after a few weeks of supplementation. So for now I’m taking a break from lithium. It does seem like it’s good for long-term health overall, so I’ll probably come back to it, but at the moment I want my “edge” back. I’d highly recommend it for those who normally feel too anxious/high-strung.

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