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Lithium in drinking water and crimes, suicides related to drug addictions (1990) (researchgate.net)
99 points by known on Mar 4, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

When I was homeless and having bad mood swings as a side effect of medical stuff, I asked my son to look up info and see if there was a lithium and salt connection (because my condition involves salt misprocessing). He said yes, there was.

We then looked for dietary sources of lithium. I began consuming beef or pork with salted potato dishes to prevent the wild mood swings. It worked.


The periodic table strongly hints at a lithium salt connection.

But what made you suspect lithium deficiency?

Pork, beef, and salted potatoes sounds like a standard American diet. It's the core of the McDonald's menu :-)

At forty I'm starting to learn chemistry because my 12 year old daughter has an interest in it. If you have a layman's explanation for why the periodic table strongly hints at a lithium salt connection I would love to show that to her. Thanks.

If you have any other insights that one could derive from the periodic table that would be much appreciated as well. Thank you!

I think they just mean that lithium and sodium are both in the same valence group, but I'm not sure if that has any actual nutritional significance here.

Sodium chloride is normal salt, and potassium chloride is another salt.

In general, chlorine is missing one electron from its full configuration, while the first column has a lonely electron in its outermost S-orbital — so they’re pretty happy to do a dance and make a molecule.

(Which is why HCl is also a thing.)

Thank you.

I don't eat the standard American diet. I eat enough vegetarian meals that meat-and-potatoes relatives have accused me of being vegetarian. And burgers: ew. Not my thing.

I've had a few bipolar friends. I was having pretty severe mood swings that were very out of character for me. They reminded me of what little I knew of bipolar behavior.

Meat, seafood, eggs, milk, nuts, legumes and high water content plant foods (fruits and vegetables) are a generally good dietary sources of Lithium. Fats, grain-based and sugary foods are poor sources. If you're not lucky enough to live in an area with a high Lithium water supply, a low calorie density paleo-type or plant-based diet is probably the best way to ensure an optimal Lithium intake.

(Tomatoes are a particularly good source IIRC).

> [..] plant-based diet is probably the best way to ensure an optimal Lithium intake.

It looks like a plant-based diet is probably the best way to ensure optimal intake of most micronutrients. Plants and legumes contain a whole lot of micronutrients per calorie, especially compared to calorie-rich 'junk' food.

Or a meat and animal fat based diet.

Nuts and legumes are only two of the items on your list. Not sure how you get around to advocating a plant based diet based on that.

Not advocating anything, only pointing out that fatty and grain-based/sugar-based foods are low in Lithium (per calorie).

Meat, eggs, seafood, and nuts are very fatty. And all the better for it.

And Omega-3 makes you less violent


7-Up originally contained Lithium


Fish contains both Lithium and Omega-3

You can buy trace mineral drops, which contain a fair amount of lithium, as well as magnesium and other trace minerals. The most common ones are based on de-salted mineral deposits from the great salt lake.

No idea if this is the best supplement for lithium (but would be interested to know).

I have been using these for years, primarily because I feel the evidence is strong for the benefits of a small amount of lithium. As a welcome side effect, the magnesium has completely alleviated leg jitters while sleeping (this is a well known effect of magnesium).

Wow, not sure if leg jitters refers to restless leg syndrome, but your comment made me just realise that once I started taking magnesium citrate my restless leg syndrome has completely subsided. I started taking magnesium to help with insomnia which I can't say it has helped much but I definitely no longer have fidgety feet and legs all night.

Magnesium definitely helps. Restless leg runs in my family. Another thing to try: a glass of shweppes tonic water (the kind with quinine in it). That works for me when RL is so bad I can't sleep. My poor wife has bruises on her legs sometimes from me kicking her in my sleep :( when I'm awake it feels like leg cramps. When I'm asleep, I apparently kick like crazy.

This reminds me of the conspiracy theory which claims that the government is putting chemicals in the water supply to keep people docile and controllable.

Food's already got enough estrogen-emitters to cover it...but you're right.

As government oppression continued to increase over time, they had to keep increasing the dosage ;p Even that wasn't enough though, so that's why they started doing Chemtrails. So now they implement a comprehensive three-factor approach; water supply, food supply and air supply. They can combine different ratios of the chemicals in order to customize treatment to the geographical region; that's necessary to achieve a more homogenous (and therefore, predictable) population. Predictable, homogenous populations are also better to encourage corporate consumerism because it allows corporations to use the same marketing approach globally.

It all adds up. Everything is connected.

> goes crazy and starts talking to self

It does give another meaning to the "rat race".

Clearly the solution is buy direct from source (or grow your own food) and live away from cities.

depending on what country you live in, the government is putting fluoride in the water supply to keep your teeth healthy.

Heh, I've always thought that was funny: fluoridation is okay, but lithiumization isn't. What's the difference? Atomic number?

yeah I was surprised to discover that a lot of European countries don't seem to add fluoride for that reason [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoridation_by_country

Maybe it does both.

As did getting rid of lead in gas and as a material water pipes have been made of.

As did gaming consoles.

As did cable tv.

None of those are used as medication for a psychiatric condition, though.

But the dose used as a medication is 1000x higher than what you would get from drinking water.

Over what period of time?

Per day if you're drinking a couple literally of water. Basically it would take like 2,000 liters of water to equal a single daily dose of lithium.

Perhaps mercury as well. Or mad hatter goes mad is a crime ....


Anyone know of newer research on this topic?

The below comments are misinformed, thanks.

oof, yeah that's questionable if it hasn't had an update since then.

It's dangerously in the realm of things that sound plausible, and so are believed blindly. (Speed in water supply improves productivity, PCP in water increases crime, Dihydrogen Monoxide in the water supply causes drowning)

Good point. 30 yr old study announcing dramatic findings with no subsequent replication studies. Reasonable to look at it with caution.

There are multiple studies referenced on the bloody same page linked by OP:

2018 'We found that lithium levels were significantly and negatively associated with SMR averages for 2002–2006' https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-...

2017 "After adjusting for confounder (the number of women for 1,000 men), the lithium level remained statistically significant in men, but not in women." https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315599920_Lithium_l...

2015 "Lithium concentrations and local suicide rates were not significantly inversely related, except in 1980-1989, particularly among women" https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280581760_Relations...


But there is a better review here https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2018/10/24/18010592/futur...

I thought that stephen (freakenomics) Levitt has shown (innhis own research) that this result was insufficient to explain the 1990s crime drop - his theory that he says fit the data was the Supreme court decision allowing abortion (Roe v wade) - in other words the teenage criminals of 1990 simply did not get born

The data involving lithium has generally involved localized effects. You're talking about the general trends.

And freakonomics didn't by any means solve the question of the general trends. Here's a decent vox article that explores 16 competing theories that each have plausibility. Some of which have already been mentioned in the comments here (such as the end of leaded gasoline)


That seems a bit suspect to be the single explanation, because the poorest people most at risk of becoming criminals wouldn't have easy access to abortion even if legal. Even today, access to and effective use of birth control is challengingly low among people of little means.

Gwern has a useful page about this:


Excess lithium causes other problems:

"A recently discovered environmental health problem of potential public health relevance is the presence of elevated concentrations of lithium in drinking water []. Lithium has been suggested to be essential for humans [], however, the evidence is weak. On the other hand, lithium exposure has been associated with impaired thyroid function in women [], including pregnant women [], in northern Argentina, where the lithium concentrations in drinking water range 5–1660μg/L. Lithium readily crosses the placenta [] and an inverse association between maternal blood lithium concentrations during pregnancy and birth length has also been observed []. Lithium has long been used in the treatment of bipolar disease[]. The side effects of lithium therapy include impaired calcium homeostasis, often as hyperparathyroidism []. Whether lithium in drinking water can have similar effects in the general population is not known. The calcium homeostasis is strictly regulated because of calcium's important role in bone formation, intracellular signaling and muscle contraction." (citations [] omitted)

- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26828622 / http://www.sverigesnatur.org/app/uploads/2017/10/li-and-ca-h... (quote from the intro in this pdf)

Lithium, Sodium and Potassium are in Group 1:


Calcium and Magnesium are in Group 2.

Adequate salts are vary important to health. I'd rather have adequate Na, K, Ca, and Mg than supplemental Li.

tl/dr: I drink salted orange juice (K), eat salted potatoes (K), add salt to my dairy products (Ca and K), and salt my green vegetables (Mg).

Drugging people with Lithium is an intervention done on the basis of "we don't know why it sometimes works, but it seems to sometimes help, so we might as well try it, and if the patient complains their opinion doesn't actually matter."

Can anyone tell me how can I mineralize my water supply with lithium? Maybe Lithium rocks that my drinking water should pass through?

Its almost as if lithium dulls reality. This is highly worrying.

Correlation does not imply causation.

Right, but lithium is perhaps one of the more well-studied psychiatric medications, and the drug with the best evidence for its effects at mood stabilization.

The question, then is different. We know that lithium has certain theraputic effects at 0.6-1.2 mmol/L blood concentrations. In this range, it is a powerful and effective mood stabilizer. What, then, are the effects of lithium at lower concentrations?

More importantly, we dont live in a one-variable world.

I don't think this is even a dumb C vs. C scenario. My interpretation of this (and the stated "needs controlled studies in future") is that there isn't meaningful controls on the comparison - so the basic correlation seems suspect to me.

You know, as a super intelligent internet commenter :D

Pretty obvious. I mean, they give lithium to crazy people to calm them down.

Also, I hear that fluoride in the drinking water does a similar trick. Makes you think.

This seems dumb. I'm sure poisoning the water supply would also reduce the crime-rate.

Given the (probable) relation between lead and crime, this seems straightforwardly not true.

Also, it's hardly germane. Lithium is not toxic in naturally occurring levels, it is, in fact, an essential nutrient:


I'm sure the implication is "anti anxiety" (I think lithium is that class?) drugs in water supply reduce crime, rather than anything else

It’s a mood stabilizer. At therapeutic doses it makes the entire world seem grey, and is generally used to help people with enormous uncontrollable emotional swings. AFAIK no studies have been ever done on “microsdosing” it


Not an expert but I've only ever heard it prescribed for people with serious bipolar and perhaps schizophrenia.


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