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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, May 26, 2017

Vitamins and Autism: The Real Story

by Andrew W. Saul, Editor

(OMNS, May 26, 2017) Kids today receive about four times the number of vaccinations than I did in as a child in the late 1950s. (1) And, there has been a sharp increase in the incidence of autism in children. There are conventionally trained physicians, such as Drs. Andrew Wakefield, Suzanne Humphries and others who are convinced that the steep rise is due in large part to the rising number of shots for children. While I personally am in full agreement with them, vaccination is not the focus of this article. Increased vaccination is a fact of life. Increased autism is also a fact of life. Whether it is correlation or causation, in either event you have virtually no choice in the matter. You are forced by law to vaccinate your children. You are also righteously and compassionately compelled as a loving, dedicated parent, to care for your autistic child. The pressing question is, what can we do to help autistic children, today? I therefore wish to address autism as an existing condition, regardless of what may have caused it.

You may or may not be surprised that many an internet search (and most all doctor visits) will assure you that, like vaccination, vitamins have precious little if anything to do with treating autism. However, there is a whole body of knowledge that disagrees.

Autism may be what Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, termed a nutritional dependency disease. This is distinct and different from a nutrient deficiency disease. Deficiency means you are not getting the commonly accepted minimum standard. Dependency means you personally need much more than others, permanently. Drugs will not correct vitamin dependencies. Nutritional treatment can, and has.

Dr. Bernie Rimland

A Google search will yield over 50,000 results for Bernard Rimland in half a second. Dr. Rimland has been honored all over the world. In Britain, newspapers such as the Guardian and the Independent featured his life and work. The LA Times called him "the father of modern autism research."

"In 1964, (Rimland) published Infantile Autism, a landmark book that argued autism had biochemical roots," said TIME Magazine, "and also controversially claimed metals like mercury (in vaccines) could trigger autism and vitamins could help treat it."

Melvyn R. Werbach, MD, (2) in reviewing nutritional treatments for autism, said:

"Particularly exciting are the results of studies in which autistic patients were supplemented with vitamin B6. For example, in one study, autistic children who appeared to benefit from supplementation either continued to receive the supplement or were switched to placebo under double-blind conditions. Only those children who were withdrawn from the supplement showed significant behavioral deterioration. (3)

"Magnesium is usually added to vitamin B6 (4) . . . While dosages vary, 500 mg of vitamin B6 is often given along with 250 mg magnesium. The combination of vitamin B6 and magnesium does not cure autism, but improvements are sometimes dramatic. Moreover, all of the more than a dozen research studies, some of them double-blind, have reported positive outcomes."

It is noteworthy that both of these references are to the work of Dr. Rimland. Even more interesting to me is that the papers were published in two medical journals that are about as far apart as imaginable: American J Psychiatry and J Orthomolecular Psychiatry.

As Abraham Lincoln put it, "All I can say is what the girl said when she put her foot in the stocking. It strikes me there's something in it."

Preferring nutrition over drugs is not a new idea. One of the greatest areas of progress in medicine has been a growing realization that vitamins, in sufficiently high doses, are an effective treatment for illness. And this began even before Dr. Rimland.

Dr. Ruth F. Harrell

The start of the Second World War was breaking news when Ruth Flinn Harrell conducted her first investigations into what she called "superfeeding" children with supplemental vitamins. Her 1942 Columbia University doctoral thesis, "Effect of Added Thiamine [Vitamin B-1] on Learning," was published by the university in 1943, followed by "Further Effects of Added Thiamine on Learning and Other Processes" in 1947. In 1981, Harrell and colleagues published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that high doses of vitamins improved intelligence and educational performance in learning disabled children. (5) The Harrell study was successful because her team gave children much larger doses of vitamins than other researchers: over 100 times the adult (not child's) US RDA for riboflavin; 37 times the RDA for niacin (given as niacinamide); 40 times the RDA for vitamin E; and 150 times the RDA for thiamin.

When asked if vitamin therapy was endorsed by medical and governmental authorities, Dr. Harrell replied, "Nobody knows anything about the area of dietary supplementation, but the National Institutes of Health knows for sure it's impossible." (6)

The work of Drs. Rimland and Harrell has shown that it is possible to help children with supplemental nutrition. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Take a look for yourself at what has already been demonstrated to help.

If someone tells you not to take that look, do it anyway.


1. Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Age 0 Through 18 Years, United States, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Or, if you prefer it in full color: )

2. Werbach MR. Nutritional Treatments for Autism. Townsend Letter, 2002. No 243, p.176

3. Rimland B et al. The effect of high doses of vitamin B6 on autistic children: A double-blind crossover study. Am J Psychiatry 135:472-5, 1978.

4. Rimland B. An orthomolecular study of psychotic children. J Orthomol Psychiatry. 3:371-7, 1974.

See also:

Martineau J et al. Vitamin B6, magnesium, and combined B6-Mg: Therapeutic effects in childhood autism. Biol Psychiatry 20:467-78, 1985


Rimland B. Controversies in the treatment of autistic children: vitamin and drug therapy. J Child Neurol 3 Suppl:S68-72, 1988.

5. Saul AW. The Pioneering Work of Ruth Flinn Harrell, Champion of Children. J Orthomolecular Med, 2004. Vol 19, No 1, p. 21-26.

6. Horwitz N. Vitamins, minerals boost IQ in retarded. Medical Tribune 22:3. 21 January, 1981. Pages 1 and 19.

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Editorial Review Board:

Ilyès Baghli, M.D. (Algeria)
Ian Brighthope, M.D. (Australia)
Prof. Gilbert Henri Crussol (Spain)
Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. (USA)
Damien Downing, M.D. (United Kingdom)
Michael Ellis, M.D. (Australia)
Martin P. Gallagher, M.D., D.C. (USA)
Michael J. Gonzalez, N.M.D., D.Sc., Ph.D. (Puerto Rico)
William B. Grant, Ph.D. (USA)
Tonya S. Heyman, M.D. (USA)
Suzanne Humphries, M.D. (USA)
Ron Hunninghake, M.D. (USA)
Michael Janson, M.D. (USA)
Robert E. Jenkins, D.C. (USA)
Bo H. Jonsson, M.D., Ph.D. (Sweden)
Jeffrey J. Kotulski, D.O. (USA)
Peter H. Lauda, M.D. (Austria)
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D. (USA)
Stuart Lindsey, Pharm.D. (USA)
Victor A. Marcial-Vega, M.D. (Puerto Rico)
Charles C. Mary, Jr., M.D. (USA)
Mignonne Mary, M.D. (USA)
Dave McCarthy, M.D. (USA)
Joseph Mercola, D.O. (USA)
Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, Pharm.D. (Puerto Rico)
Karin Munsterhjelm-Ahumada, M.D. (Finland)
Tahar Naili, M.D. (Algeria)
W. Todd Penberthy, Ph.D. (USA)
Jeffrey A. Ruterbusch, D.O. (USA)
Gert E. Schuitemaker, Ph.D. (Netherlands)
Thomas L. Taxman, M.D. (USA)
Jagan Nathan Vamanan, M.D. (India)
Garry Vickar, MD (USA)
Ken Walker, M.D. (Canada)
Atsuo Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)
Anne Zauderer, D.C. (USA)

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. (USA), Editor-In-Chief
Robert G. Smith, Ph.D. (USA), Assistant Editor
Helen Saul Case, M.S. (USA), Assistant Editor
Ralph K. Campbell, M.D. (USA), Contributing Editor
Michael S. Stewart, B.Sc.C.S. (USA), Technology Editor
Jason M. Saul, JD (USA), Legal Consultant

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