Many alarmed families contacted the Autism Research Institute following a highly publicized report from the University of Michigan Medical School that warned about the supposed “dangers” of taking vitamin B6. The authors purportedly studied the value of B6 as a treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful wrist malady that occurs from repetitive motion. There are a number of well-documented reports of vitamin B6 as a successful treatment for this condition — the alternative being expensive, painful, and often ineffective surgery.
The Michigan researchers had not given any B6 to even one of their subjects! Nor did they include any subject who actually had carpal tunnel syndrome. Rather, they completed blood and nerve conduction studies on people “potentially” at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. They claimed that while “several studies” show B6 to be effective for carpal tunnel syndrome, “numerous” reports have failed to support the finding. In fact, twelve reports are favorable and only seven negative. Apparently for these researchers, twelve means several, and seven equates to numerous.
Their irresponsible warning was based primarily on a 1983 paper by Schaumburg, et al., reporting seven cases with significant, though not permanent, side effects resulting from 2,000 mg to 6,000 mg per day of B6. The side effects (peripheral neuropathy), which are very rarely experienced, were tingling in the hands and feet, much like the sensation one gets when a hand or foot “falls asleep.” This side effect disappears when B6 is reduced or eliminated. The cases were compiled from seven authors from several major medical centers, and I suspect a national search had been done to locate them. In my own experience with many thousands of autistic children and adults, I have encountered, to the best of my knowledge, only four cases of temporary peripheral neuropathy.
Eighteen studies have been published since 1965 that conclusively show benefits of high-dosage vitamin B6 for approximately half of all autistic children who tried it. If you contrast the findings on B6 with drugs typically used for autism, it is clear that B6 is much safer. There has never been a serious illness, much less a death, associated with even very large amounts of B6. Deaths and permanent disability from prescription drugs are well documented.
It is unfortunate that the medical establishment, which makes its money primarily through surgery or drug therapy, continues to grossly exaggerate the dangers of nutritional supplements. The University of Michigan study, with its totally irrelevant conclusions, is one of the worst and most appalling studies I have ever read. As Alan Gaby, MD, author of The Doctor’s Guide to Vitamin B6 summed it up, the report is a disgusting display of bias.
An autistic person will improve on B6 only if that person’s body requires extra B6. The benefits are usually seen within a few days. A moderate amount of magnesium must also be taken. If no benefit is seen in three to four weeks, as occurs in 50% of the cases, or if signs of peripheral neuropathy occur (very rare), then it should be discontinued.
Bernard Rimland, PhD, served as founder and director of the Autism Research Institute, as well as an Advisory Board Member of ACN Latitudes. Dr. Rimland passed away in 2006.