Lithium to Stop Dementia? Cambridge Study Reveals Potential After Analyzing 30,000 Mental Health Patients

A fresh study led by Cambridge University has suggested that Lithium could help decrease the risk of developing dementia, a leading cause of death in the UK.

The study found the possibility that lithium treatment could decrease the risk of developing dementia and supports the need for further randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to test the efficacy of lithium as a disease-modifying drug in dementia, according to the research published in the journal PLOS.

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"The main limitation is that 73% of the patients in the lithium-exposed group had mania/bipolar affective disorder (BPAD), which is a significant risk factor for dementia. Our results were in the opposite direction, however, and were supported by sensitivity analyses," said the researchers.

The study, which analyzed nearly 30,000 mental health patients, found that only 9.7 percent of patients prescribed lithium got dementia, compared to 11.2 percent among those not on it.

The findings are significant as Dementia is the leading cause of death in elderly Western populations.

Researchers have earlier spent years to find out a complete treatment for dementia as currently in the US nearly five million people have this disorder.

Methodology Behind Findings

Medical records of 29,618 patients over-50s were accessed by the researchers from the mental health services at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

A retrospective cohort study was held comparing patients treated between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2019, using data from electronic clinical records of secondary care mental health (MH) services in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), said the study published in PLOS Medicine.

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Among 29,618, patients, 548 were prescribed lithium, which allowed experts to figure out its impact on the disorder.

Dr Shanquan Chen, the lead author of the study, underlined that results were unexpected as people with bipolar disorder have been found to be more at risk of dementia. However, Chen maintained that it is very early to be sure of the findings but it has shown that lithium might reduce the risk of dementia in people with bipolar disorder.

Dementia also leads to disability in the elderly western population and nearly 47 million people had this disorder in 2015. Researchers have underlined that the number is expected to be triple by 2050.