Vitamin B6 and Magnesium
Written by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of Autism, Salem, Oregon
An effective intervention for many autistic children and adults is the use of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and magnesium. For over 30 years, parents have given B6 and magnesium to their children and have observed benefits ranging from mild to dramatic. B6 and magnesium are safe and inexpensive.
B6 and magnesium have received more scientific support than any other biological intervention for autism. There are 18 studies showing that B6 and magnesium are beneficial to about half of autistic individuals. Eleven of these studies involved a double-blind placebo design. These studies have documented decreases in behavioral problems, improvements in appropriate behavior, and normalization of brain wave activity and urine biochemistry. There is also evidence that B6 and magnesium may reduce seizure activity. Parent reports also include: improvements in attention, learning, speech/language, and eye contact. Information about these research studies along with other relevant information can be obtained from the Autism Research Institute (e.g., answers to frequently asked questions, dosage/weight chart).
Kirkman Laboratories in Lake Oswego, Oregon has been manufacturing a flavored B6/magnesium formula, Super Nuthera, for use in autism since 1968 (1-888-Kirkman; www.kirkmanlabs.com).
The average effective dose is 8 milligrams (mg) per pound (lb.) for vitamin B6, and 3 mg per lb. for magnesium. These recommendations are for the average autistic person; thus, a person may respond better on a lower or higher amount. Parents should first give about one-fourth of this dose (i.e., 2 mg per lb. for B6 & 1 mg per lb. for magnesium) and gradually increase the amount every 3 to 4 days. Parents should keep track of their child’s behavior to determine the appropriate dose.
It is very important to give magnesium along with B6 because B6 requires extra magnesium to be effective, and thus may cause a deficiency. Problems associated with magnesium deficiency include: enuresis (bedwetting), irritability/agitation, and sound sensitivity. Occasionally, an autistic person exhibits one or more of these behaviors when given B6 along with magnesium. In these cases, the person may need more than the recommended amount of magnesium. Magnesium is relatively safe–too high of a dose will cause diarrhea (e.g., Milk of Magnesia).
A comprehensive multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement is strongly recommended since vitamins and minerals assist in metabolizing B6 and magnesium. Be careful: many children’s vitamins contain Aspartame (or Nutrasweet) which is used as a sweetener. Parents should try to avoid products with Aspartame because research has shown that Aspartame can cause neurological damage (see Russell L. Blaylock’s 1996 book entitled Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills).
There is some discussion on the side effects of high doses of B6. The only documentation of an adverse reaction to very high doses (higher than the recommended doses for autism) is peripheral neuropathy, but this is extremely rare. Peripheral neuropathy refers to tingling or numbness in the fingers and/or toes. Reducing the amount of B6 will usually eliminate the tingling or numbness within a day or two.