Is lithium a micronutrient? From biological activity and epidemiological observation to food fortification
Szklarska, D. & Rzymski, P.
Lithium compounds have been widely used in psychopharmacology, particularly in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Their normothymic and neuroprotective properties when used at high doses have been well established. However, a number of observations suggest that environmentally relevant lithium doses may also exert beneficial health effects, leading to a decrease in the rate of suicides and levels of violence. Despite the fact that this element is not officially considered to be a micronutrient, some authors have suggested provisional recommended intakes set at 1000 μg/day for a 70-kg adult (14.3 μg/kg body weight). The present paper reviews the biological action of lithium, its bioavailability and metabolism, and content in different foodstuffs and water. It also assesses epidemiological data on potential correlations between lithium intake and suicide rate as well as examines the concept of fortifying food with this element as a strategy in the primary prevention of mood disorders and pre-suicidal syndrome.