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October 2017

Could Lithium in Drinking Water Reduce the Incidence of Dementia?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia
  • 2National Centre for Register-Based Research, Aarhus Business and Social Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 3Deakin University, IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, School of Medicine, Barwon Health, Geelong, Australia
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(10):983-984. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2336

Now more than ever, the research community should be concentrating on finding ways to reduce the incidence of dementia. The population is aging, and the number of individuals affected by dementia remains a major public health challenge. The reality is that we have no effective treatments for dementia. In the absence of treatments to cure the disorder (or even reduce the associated burden by delaying onset or reducing disability), the prevention of dementia must be a priority research topic. Modifiable risk factors are associated with dementia1 (eg, diabetes and attendant behavioral risks, such as diet and physical activity); these risk factors are important but complex targets for intervention. However, as with many neurologic and psychiatric disorders, we have a scant appreciation of the environmental risk factors that contribute to dementia risk. There is an urgent need to generate new candidate risk factors for dementia. In contrast to genetics, for which there are now cost-efficient, high-throughput screening methods that can generate genetic candidates, epidemiology relies on a mix of creative researchers and access to suitable databases that contain the variables of interest. Epidemiologists are envious of our colleagues in genetics, in which the search space for risk variants is more tractable and bounded.

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