Professor Dr. Michael Ristow's team along with Japanese colleagues from universities in Oita and Hiroshima demonstrated the physiological function of lithium.
To test their theory, the scientists examined the impact of lithium in a concentration that is regularly found in ordinary tap water.
"We found that the mortality rate was considerably lower in those municipalities with more lithium in the drinking water," said Ristow.
In a second experiment, the Jena scientists examined exactly this range of concentration in the model organism C. elegans.
"The average longevity of the worms is higher after they have been treated with lithium at this dosage", Ristow added.
The team also suggested using low-dose lithium as a potential dietary supplement in the future.
"From previous studies we know already that a higher uptake of lithium through drinking water is associated with an improvement of psychological well-being and with decreased suicide rates," Ristow said.
While low-dose lithium uptake on the basis of the new data is clearly thought to be beneficial, more studies will be necessary to thoroughly recommend such a supplementation, the scientists concluded.
The results appear in the online edition of the scientific publication European Journal of Nutrition. (ANI)