2009 年 83 巻 8 号 p. 453-460
Lithium (Li) is the smallest of the alkali metals. Medical application of Li for treating mood disorders was preceded to the studies on its actions for human health. Traces of Li were detected in human organs and fetal tissue. Li is found in variable amounts in our environment and in foods. In some areas, the drinking water also provides significant amounts of the element. Animal experiments on rats and goats maintained on low-lithium rations showed to exhibit higher mortalities as well as reproductive and behavioral abnormalities; however, it is still debatable that Li is essential as an ultra trace nutrient. The biochemical mechanisms of action of Li appear to be multi-factorial and are inter-correlated with the functions of several enzymes, hormones, vitamins and minerals. Here we reviewed lithium occurrence, dietary intakes, and nutritional essentiality as well as pharmacological properties with special references to cancer and stem cell biology.