Vitamin Code

Code Factors: enzymes, antioxidants, fatty acids and phytonutrients

twin boys on orange

twin boys on orange

To understand how raw nutrition segued from pre-World War II Hungary to the affluent masses who crave body health today, one must know the story of Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, a professor as likely to be seen riding his bike across campus or playing soccer with the students as at work in his laboratory. In conservative 1930s Hungary Szent-Gyorgyi must have been the very image of free-wheeling.

Fun-loving? Sure. But everyone respected him for his blunt, down to earth lecture style, MD status and Cambridge University research credentials that had put him in the forefront of worldwide efforts by scientists to name the vitamin in citrus that they knew cured seafarers suffering scurvy within a week.

Szent-Gyorgyi’s laboratory work led to isolation of “hexuronic acid” from citrus juices. When added to foods and tested on guinea pigs, it was shown to help those who had scurvy-like symptoms. Szent-Gyorgyi won the 1937 Nobel Prize in Medicine “for his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion processes, with special reference to vitamin C and the catalysis of fumaric acid.”

Powerful co-factors

Lost in all this was another discovery that had far broader implications. The “hexuronic acid” that Szent-Gyorgyi was able to isolate had major issues. Difficult-to-extract sugars from citrus impeded purification. Szent-Gyorgyi spent a lot of time trying to find a better food source of vitamin C. His answer came one night at the dinner table when his wife served a meal with Lost in all this was another discovery that had far broader implications. The “hexuronic acid” that Szent-Gyorgyi was able to isolate had major issues. Difficult-to-extract sugars from citrus impeded purification. Szent-Gyorgyi spent a lot of time trying to find a better food source of vitamin C. His answer came one night at the dinner table when his wife served a meal with

With this finding, Szent-Gyorgyi was able to isolate as much vitamin C as he wanted, and this form was much purer than “hexuronic acid.” Szent- Gyorgyi named this new, pure form of vitamin C “ascorbic acid” (from the Latin term for scurvy, ascorbutus). Today, ascorbic acid is still the name for purified vitamin C.

In order to isolate ascorbic acid from the paprika, he needed to go through several steps of purification. Ever the meticulous scientist, Szent- Gyorgyi tested each one of these stages on patients with conditions related to vitamin C deficiency. What he found startled him.

He had expected that as the vitamin C became purer and purer patients would respond faster, with 100% ascorbic acid equaling the fastest response time. This was not the case. In fact, the 100% pure ascorbic acid had a minimal effect. It was at a purification stage between raw food and 100% that had the greatest effect.

Szent-Gyorgyi surmised that the in-between stage contained other elements that aided vitamin C’s effects. He believed that these elements were “flavones.” Today they are known as bioflavonoids and isoflavonoids, key “co-factors” that are important to vitamin C.

Findings like these ought to rock the nutrition world; instead, almost all of the industry was convinced of the notion that chemically isolated vitamins were more beneficial to health.

War interrupts

During the war, Szent-Gyorgyi turned his attentions to the Hungarian resistance movement, helping Jewish scientists escape death camps and ferrying messages to the British Secret Service. His efforts, attracting Hitler’s attention, earned him a coveted invitation to see the Führer. Knowing the visit meant death, Szent- Gyorgyi and his wife fled. Until the war’s end, they hid near the Soviet border where the Gestapo dared not go. Eventually, after the war, some 10 years after he won the Nobel Prize, he came to the United States. By that time, he had turned his attention elsewhere (in 1954 he won the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for cardiovascular disease research).

Code breaker

What he could not know was the impression he made on a young man attending one of his lectures. Endre “Andy” Szalay considered Szent-Gyorgyi a hero, and using his principles as a guide he would one day break the Vitamin Code.

Many people have moments in their lives that are hard-wired into memory banks, moments that help drive them toward a goal in life. For Andy Szalay, the moments were a combination of lectures delivered by Albert Szent- Gyorgyi. That it would take decades to reach his goal is a testament to both the power of those moments and the dedication that Andy Szalay showed from an early age.

Growing up, Andy did not want to be a scientist. He wanted to be a competitive swimmer, and the early part of his life was devoted to that goal. He would swim all summer, and during the school year he would train from 6 to 8 am, go to school and then train again from 6 to 8 pm each evening.

When his dreams of representing Hungary in international competition did not materialize, Andy dedicated himself to his work at the University of Szeged in Hungary, the same place where Szent-Gyorgyi researched and taught. While the two never met or spoke, Szent-Gyorgyi’s lectures had a profound effect on Andy. To this day, he carries around a tattered autobiography of his hero, worn from constant attention.

After graduating from the University of Szeged in 1943, Andy became a pharmacist. Of course, Hungary in 1943 was not the best place to be.

With Germans overtaking the country and the Russians fighting back, many a night was spent huddled in basements as bombs flew overhead. After the war, the Communist regime of Russia that controlled Hungary was the devil, only more evil. In 1956, fearing for his life, Andy escaped (literally through a hole in a fence) and ended up in the United States.

Andy spent the next two decades slowly working his way up the corporate ladder at three different botanical/pharmaceutical companies. While his ideas, discipline and hard work earned him the respect of his bosses, they could never see their way to letting him practice an idea that had been turning around in his head since his days of listening to Szent-Gyorgyi.

So it was after 15 years of service at the third company that Andy would make a decision that most people would never have the guts to do. At the age of 57, Andy quit his job in 1977 and started his own company. Grow Company, Inc. was Andy’s first big step toward breaking the Vitamin Code.


So what was Andy’s idea, the one that, previously, he tried to share with three companies? It was very simple and based upon the findings of Szent-Gyorgyi.

During the isolation process of vitamin C, Szent-Gyorgyi found an “intermediate” stage where the vitamin C was incredibly effective, more effective than the 100% isolated vitamin C. Andy’s premise was simple: if he could find a way to reverse-engineer the process, and bring a 100% isolated vitamin C back to the “intermediate” stage, he would have a more effective form of vitamin C.

Andy had an idea how to do it. For inspiration, all he needed to do was look out his window. Andy knew that when a plant takes root, its roots reach into the soil and pull out the inorganic salts. When the plant is exposed to sunlight, through its metabolic process the leaves and fruit of that plant— in combination with beneficial soil organisms—produce not only vitamins and minerals, but also all of the related co-factors. The vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and phytochemicals are literally grown.

In sum, this is what Andy’s theory looked like. Szent-Gyorgyi took food and isolated the vitamins from that food to their purest form, realizing that the vitamin was at its most potent at an “intermediate” step. Andy wanted to mimic the process in nature, taking the isolated vitamin and growing it back to the “intermediate” stage.

Proteins and Peptides

While the theory was simple, the application was not.

The first thing Andy needed was a growth medium, a plant or food source. After several trials, he settled on using baker’s yeast, the same type of yeast available in every grocery store. Baker’s yeast is a single-celled organism that grows hydroponically (in water). It grabs its nutrients from the water and, as it grows it divides, from one cell to two, two to four, four to eight and so forth.

Baker’s yeast also yielded Andy another benefit, one that proved that he was on the right track. Andy found that when certain proteins and smaller chained peptides were introduced to growing yeast, they penetrated the cell walls and embedded in the yeast. By contrast, when he introduced a vitamin or mineral into the growing yeast, it was not always able to penetrate the cell wall.

No penetration meant that the newly created yeast did not have that vitamin or mineral embedded in it.

Andy’s “eureka moment” came when he decided to first embed a vitamin or mineral with a protein or peptide and then introduce it to the propagating yeast. A peptide is a small protein comprised of two amino acids meant to digest or be digested.

Andy would learn that each vitamin and mineral has its own specific proteins or peptides that allow it to pass through the yeast cell wall and embed within the yeast. There was no “universal” protein or peptide that worked for every vitamin or mineral. He would have to learn the natural codes.

Undaunted, Andy set about trying to figure out the protein code for a single mineral, in this case selenium. Since Andy did not know which specific protein or peptide would allow selenium to pass through the yeast cell wall, he went about finding out the old-fashioned way—through trial and error. And when he finally broke the code, even though he was expecting the results, he was still awed. As he predicted, the peptide that he used allowed the selenium to pass through the yeast cell wall and embed in the yeast. Andy had succeeded in taking an inorganic isolated mineral (selenium) and embed it in a food source (yeast). The result was the creation of yeast in which the enhanced level of selenium formed an integral part. He had reverse-engineered the first of the natural code factors. He had reached the “intermediate” phase that Szent- Gyorgyi described.

Andy then spent years determining every protein or peptide that was necessary to grow all of the major vitamins and minerals. Literally thousands of tests were done, with each failure having to be cleaned up, only to start again. Andy had done something that would have made his hero proud: he had broken the Vitamin Code.

Code factors

Code Factors are compounds that are created during the growing process. We often think of nutrition in terms of vitamins and minerals. Oranges are high in vitamin C. Spinach is a rich source of beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A. Yogurt is high in calcium. While all of this is true, it tends to sell short the true nutritional value of raw and cultured foods. Oranges, spinach and yogurt are a lot more complex than one vitamin or mineral. They contain hundreds of co-factors like probiotics, enzymes, antioxidants and phytonutrients, as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals.

Isolating vitamins and minerals from these co-factors lessens their nutritional impact. That is why The Vitamin Code line of multivitamins comes complete with Code Factors: enzymes, antioxidants, fatty acids and phytonutrients created during the process used to grow the individual vitamins and minerals. It is important to note that these co-factors are not added to the product, but are intrinsic to the process. Like a plant growing in a farmer’s field, the process used to grow these vitamins and minerals provides Code Factors.

It would take a company like Garden of Life to see the potential in raw nutrition combined with the Vitamin Code and put this powerful formula for health into people’s lives.

Vitamin Code RAW formulas are free of both gluten and genetically modified organisms and are never heated above 118 degrees F. The company’s product line includes RAW One multivitamins, protein powders, meal replacements, cleansing programs, bone builders, and supplements such as vitamin C, B complex D, E.

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