London: It looks like we have now one more reason to drink plenty of water as scientists, including one of Indian-origin, found that naturally occurring lithium in public drinking water may have an anti-suicidal effect and linked with lower suicide rates.
Lithium, sometimes referred to as the 'Magic Ion', is widely and effectively used as a medication for the treatment and prevention of manic and depressive episodes, stabilising mood and reducing the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders.
Its anti-aggressive properties can help reduce impulsivity, aggression, violent criminal behaviour and chronic substance abuse.
Lithium is a naturally occurring element and is found in variable amounts in vegetables, grains, spices and drinking water. It is present in trace amounts in virtually all rocks, and is mobilised by weathering into soils, ground and standing water, and thus into the public water supply.
"It is promising that higher levels of trace lithium in drinking water may exert an anti-suicidal effect and have the potential to improve community mental health," said study lead author Anjum Memon from Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) in the UK.
Published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the study collated research from around the world and found that geographical areas with relatively high levels of concentration of lithium in public drinking water had correspondingly lower suicide rates.
The study involved systematic review and meta-analysis of all previous studies on the subject - conducted in Austria, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, UK, Japan and the US - which correlated naturally occurring lithium levels in drinking water samples and suicide rates in 1,286 regions/counties/cities in these countries.
The health benefits and curative powers of naturally occurring lithium in water have been known for centuries.
The Lithia Springs, an ancient Native American sacred medicinal spring, with its natural lithium-enriched water, is renowned for its health-giving properties.
In fact, the popular soft drink 7-Up contained lithium when it was created in 1929.
Recent studies have also linked lithium to reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. This raises the potential for its preventative use to combat the risk of dementia.
This synthesis and analysis of all available evidence confirms previous findings of some individual studies and shows a significant relationship between higher lithium levels in drinking water and lower suicide rates in the community.
"These findings are also consistent with the finding in clinical trials that lithium reduces suicide and related behaviours in people with a mood disorder," the study authors wrote.