The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 5 • September 2015


From a classic book on nutrition and the brain by three of the pioneering scientists in that field (Barbeau, 1979), we read the following on the effects of lithium on the cholinergic nervous system in the brain: “...manic behavior can be suppressed by giving physostigmine, a drug which, by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase [GALANTAMINE also inhibits acetylcholinesterase], increases intrasynaptic acetylcholine concentrations.”

The researchers (Millington, McCall, Wurtman, 1979) report in the classic book cited in the paragraph above that they investigated possible interactions of exogenous lithium and choline on choline’s entry into the brain. The researchers stated: “To our surprise we found that chronic treatment with lithium enhances the effects of exogenous choline on brain choline and acetylcholine, probably by preferentially suppressing choline’s efflux from the brain.” Although the researchers found that lithium inhibited the uptake of choline into the brain, it also suppressed the efflux of choline from the brain, the overall effect being an enhancement of choline levels in the brain. These scientists also found that lithium suppresses choline influx into erythrocytes (red blood cells). Moreover, another group found that chronic lithium treatment increases the synthesis of brain acetylcholine. The researchers commented: “The neurochemical effects of lithium and choline may thus be complementary ...”

This very early finding on the effects of combining choline and lithium seems to still be somewhat little known, as is so commonly the case with unpatentable nutrients that cannot be used to make blockbuster moneymakers for market sales. Although lithium itself is sold for the treatment of manic-depressive disorder because no good substitute has yet been found for it, the combination of choline and lithium remain in limbo, with no visible presence in mainstream medicine as a way to counteract declining choline levels in the brain with age that may lead to age-associated cognitive impairment.


  • Millington, McCall, Wurtman. Choline and Lecithin in Brain Disorders. In: Barbeau, Growdon, Wurtman, editors. Nutrition and the Brain. Volume 5. New York: Raven Press, 1979. P. 417-24.

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