Can lithium slow the development of Alzheimer's?

The need for Alzheimer's care is expected to grow in the coming years, especially as the baby boomer generation ages. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that every one out of eight members of this demographic will be afflicted by the condition. 

Many different researchers have been looking into treatments and one of the most promising was recently discovered in Brazil, where a team found that the drug lithium - which is generally used to control mood swings - can also significantly slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers studied groups of people who were all diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often considered a precursor to dementia.

Can lithium slow the development of Alzheimer's? Over a period of 12 months, they found that those who were regularly given doses of lithium showed marked differences in concentration and memory compared to the placebo group.

While this represents a promising way to delay the effects of Alzheimer's disease, it is far from a cure. Additionally, the group that researchers tested was small, with only 40 participants involved.

"These results are interesting as they suggest lithium could help slow the development of the early stages of the disease. However this is a small, preliminary trial and there are still concerns over the side effects caused by lithium," Britain's Alzheimer's Society wrote.  

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