Low-dose lithium uptake promotes longevity in humans and metazoans

Eur J Nutr. 2011 Aug;50(5):387-9. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0171-x. Epub 2011 Feb 8.


Purpose: Lithium is a nutritionally essential trace element predominantly contained in vegetables, plant-derived foods, and drinking water. Environmental lithium exposure and concurrent nutritional intake vary considerably in different regions. We here have analyzed the possibility that low-dose lithium exposure may affect mortality in both metazoans and mammals.

Methods: Based on a large Japanese observational cohort, we have used weighted regression analysis to identify putative effects of tap water-derived lithium uptake on overall mortality. Independently, we have exposed Caenorhabditis elegans, a small roundworm commonly used for anti-aging studies, to comparable concentrations of lithium, and have quantified mortality during this intervention.

Results: In humans, we find here an inverse correlation between drinking water lithium concentrations and all-cause mortality in 18 neighboring Japanese municipalities with a total of 1,206,174 individuals (β = -0.661, p = 0.003). Consistently, we find that exposure to a comparably low concentration of lithium chloride extends life span of C. elegans (p = 0.047).

Conclusions: Taken together, these findings indicate that long-term low-dose exposure to lithium may exert anti-aging capabilities and unambiguously decreases mortality in evolutionary distinct species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Asian People
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drinking Water / analysis
  • Drinking Water / chemistry
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Lithium / administration & dosage
  • Lithium / analysis
  • Lithium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Longevity*
  • Models, Animal
  • Mortality*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Trace Elements / administration & dosage
  • Trace Elements / pharmacokinetics*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis


  • Drinking Water
  • Trace Elements
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Lithium