Lithium is an essential nutrient which prevents mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (a form of dementia that results in the loss of mental functions such as memory, thought and speech) and dementia (the gradual loss of mental abilities). In this article I will be discussing this nutrient in greater detail and providing you with a summary of its main functions, the best food sources, the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) and the potentially adverse effects of consuming too much or too little.
Lithium was first discovered in Switzerland in 1800 when the Brazilian scientist Jozee Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva discovered petalite (a mineral which contains lithium). In 1817 the Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson studied petalite and concluded that 10% of this mineral was a new element which he named lithium. A year later in 1818 both the Swedish chemist William Thomas Brand and English chemist Sir Humphry Davy managed to isolate lithium from petalite.
As discussed above, the main role of lithium in the human body is to prevent mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It can also reduce the negative effects of mood altering drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, marijuana and tobacco. In addition to this, lithium can reduce episodes of mania (an elevated mood at all times) amongst sufferers of bipolar disorder, reduce aggressive and violent behaviour, increase the amount of grey matter nerve cells in the brain (which improves memory, muscle control, speech and vision) and control the production of serotonin (a hormone which regulates mood levels). Finally, lithium can help the body absorb and distribute certain key nutrients (including iodine, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12) and improve the replication of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (which contains important genetic information that is used in the creation of new cells).
Lithium has only recently been classified as an essential nutrient so no official RDA exists. However, most sources suggest an intake of at least 1 milligrams (mg) per day is adequate whilst consuming between 2mg and 3mg per day is ideal. Whilst there is no official tolerable upper limit (TUL) for lithium, research suggests that consuming 100mg a day or more can lead to negative symptoms and consuming 5 grams (g) per day or more can be fatal.
4) FOOD SOURCES:
Since lithium is a relatively recent addition to the family of essential nutrients, the exact amounts found in food are unknown. However, dairy products such as cheese, eggs and milk are all considered good sources of lithium. Certain mineral waters and plant based foods such as peppers and tomatoes are also rich food sources of this nutrient.
5) OVERDOSE SYMPTOMS:
It is almost impossible to overdose on lithium from natural foods alone. However, excessive consumption of lithium supplements can lead to a number of negative overdose symptoms which include confusion, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, lethargy and muscular weakness.
6) DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS:
Since the human body only requires relatively small amounts of lithium, deficiencies of this nutrient are rare. If a lithium deficiency does develop it can lead to depression, join pain, nervous disorders and manic depressive disorders.