The Dangers of Soy


The media loves to report on the wonderful health benefits of soy foods. It’s everywhere – we hear it can prevent diseases and do things like lower cholesterol. But there is a very dark side to soy and it isn’t pretty. All the ‘so called experts’ who support soy can kiss my arse as there is plenty of research to support what I am saying.

Many people looking to increase their state of health, reduce their body fat, and increase muscle often turn to soy thinking that the health benefits make it a worthwhile food to eat. Most of the time these people don’t understand the health benefits of soy and consume it with the mentality ‘they said it’s was good for me’.

In reality, misguided consumption of soy has unwanted health consequences.

Soy is Everywhere

A quick browse in the supermarket reveals a growing trend – soy products are in. You can find soy nuts, soy hotdogs, soy bacon, soy cheese, soy milk… It’s everywhere and it’s no wonder. The media has spent a lot of time over the past few years talking about how wonderful soy is. The message they are trying to convey is that if you want to be healthy, you will eat soy foods. You will replace regular milk with soy milk, cereal with soy cereal, chicken with soy chicken (I made that one up but you get the point)

Do you notice a pattern with these soy products? Most of them – or at least the most popular ones, resemble meat or dairy products in some way. They are PROCESSED to mimic the flavor and texture of things like chicken, hot dogs, and cheese. Notice the word “processed”. Processing does not make a food more nutritious, in fact it robs food of its nutrients.

Processed soy products are not the only products that are out there. You can purchase the whole soy beans and steam them or toast them. Tofu is another option and often makes its way into Asian inspired dishes. Miso, tempeh, and tamari are traditional products that come from soy. In fact, the choices are quite vast.


What is needed to be understood is that there are two main different types of soy;

• Unfermented (Western)
• Fermented (Eastern)

So, is it good for you? If your discussing western soy, unfermented the answer is no, definitely not. Eastern, fermented soy can be considered in small amounts.

Most people have no idea of the difference. Nutrition books and ‘so-called experts’ hail soy protein and soy products as being a great addition to the diet. They believe that the phytonutrients, protein, and other qualities in the plant have special nutritional properties, as is the case in modern nutrition themed books such as SuperFoods by Steven G. Pratt, MD and Kathy Mathews.

However, stick with me and world renown and recognized health leader Jonny Bowden when we say NO to soy. We actually research both sides of the coin and our views will not be brought unlike so many other ‘health experts’. And if you don’t believe me check out the full list of sponsors for the ADA (American Dietetic Association) by searching this link:
Did you notice anything outrageous?

As a result of this, people flock to soy products no matter what they are and eat a lot of it. People substitute soy milk for regular milk and change over some of their meat products to their soy counterparts. It is also popular with vegetarians. Instead of adopting a traditional vegetarian diet, they partake in these faux meat products thinking they are boosting their protein intake and doing great things to their body. But are they really?

Soy in Asia

Most people consume soy because they heard somewhere that it is good for them. Some of them believe that since Asian populations like the Japanese, who are considered amongst the healthiest in the world, consume soy that it is some kind of wonder food. First, bear in mind that these populations consume soy in a different way than we do. You won’t see them manufacture a product that is designed to taste like chicken or cow’s milk. They mainly use soy as a condiment or in a fermented form. Some examples of traditional soy foods are tempeh, miso, and tamari which are fermented.  They also don’t consume them in large quantities. The amounts of soy foods that they eat are relatively small in comparison to the amount that an Australian or American consumes once they catch the “soy fever”.

They also don’t over consume soy and replace whole food groups with it. In our modern culture you see people replace foods like chicken, beef, and milk with their processed soy counterparts. The human body needs a wide range or nutrients in order to function properly. By cutting out these foods and replacing them with soy counter-parts, you are not giving the body a chance to get all that it needs from food.

The Flip Side of Soy

So, there is a flip side to the belief that soy is a wonder food. There are multiple problems that can arise from consuming soy prepared in the western method, especially if too much of it is consumed.

They include:

• Nutrient deficiencies
o Particularly affects the absorption of vitamin B12, vitamin D and Calcium
• Digestive disorders
• Endocrine disruption and thyroid problems
• Its full of harmful phytoestrogens
• Contains harmful carcinogens’

Remember that the Asian populations such as those in China and Japan do not serve soy products in the same way that we do. They ferment them. This makes a big difference when considering the health benefits and risks.

Latest trends are seeing families deciding to feed their infants formula that is made from soy. This is not a natural and healthy substance for a baby to consume. In fact, the mother’s milk is designed to feed the offspring and anything else can be considered unnatural. Though traditional formula is not ideal, soy formula is even worse because it can affect the absorption of vital nutrients such as zinc and iron and also cause problems such as pancreatic disorders.

Genetically Modified Soy

The first problem with western soy products is that the soy beans that are manufactured in Australia and the United States have been genetically modified or engineered. Genetic engineering is applied to a plant by altering its traditional genetic code for a specific purpose such as equipping the plant to better withstand disease. This is a highly controversial practice and one that is especially prevalent with soy crops.

Although most genetically engineered crops in Australia and the United States have been evaluated and deemed safe by the FDA, the environmental and health implications have yet to be sufficiently determined. Those opposed to this practice understand that the plant was altered in an unnatural way using laboratory techniques.

Is The Soy We (Westerners) Consume Nutritious?

The answer to this question is “definitely not” and there are several reasons for this. First, there is a reason why the Asian populations traditionally ferment their soy foods. At the time when these techniques developed, this fact may or may not have been apparent. However, it is now.

When soy food is processed in the modern way without fermentation, the plant releases a toxin that is harmful to our bodies. The fermentation process kills off this toxin. So when the typical Westerner eats a soy product that has been processed and prepared in the modern ways, they are ingesting this toxin. When people consume a fermented soy product like tempeh, they are not consuming the toxin.

Modern processing methods also affect the protein content by turning it into something that isn’t natural. The implication of this is that the body may not have the proper mechanisms to digest this protein source. There are also a fair amount of carcinogens in soy that remain in the plant when the plant is not fermented. So any preparation of soy that is not fermented, such as soy milk, is in danger of containing those carcinogens.

Carcinogen Definition: Causing or tending to cause cancer; “the carcinogenic action of certain chemicals”

Soy in general can also affect the absorption of vitamin B12 in the body and can cause certain health problems such as thyroid disorders and even thyroid cancer. It also affects the absorption of calcium and vitamin D in the body which can lead to weak bones and osteoporosis. And as a side note, soy in general, even fermented soy, does not supply a complete protein as some sources would suggest. It is deficient in certain essential amino acids which is typical of all foods that are considered legumes.

What about the plant estrogens?

You may have heard that the plant estrogens in soy are beneficial, especially to women. So, people eat modern processed soy products thinking they are doing a great thing for their bodies. They may even take capsules of the isolated plant estrogens thinking that this will be even better.

Nothing could be furthest from the truth. Women that take soy phytoestrogens to help fight against their own waning estrogen levels must be warned that it can have the opposite affect from what we would expect. It can disrupt the endocrine system and stimulate the growth of certain cancer cells.

Cancer patients are being warned to avoid foods rich in soy because they can accelerate the growth of tumours.

“There is evidence to suggest that women with existing breast cancer or past breast cancer should be cautious in consuming large quantities of soy foods or phyto-oestrogen supplements,” a position statement from the Cancer Council says.

Stay Away From Unfermented Soy

As you can see, unfermented and processed soy products are not as healthy as people might think. People think they are doing something great for their bodies consuming soy in all of its forms.

Companies that make and market soy protein powders have to be questioned on there ethics. People who take these supplements feel as if they are doing something wonderful for their health when in fact soy has no benefit that one would need to supplement. The products ‘sell’ due to the consumer’s false beliefs about soy.

Western soy will cause more harm than good especially if you consume it in large quantities. The more you have, the more at risk you will be for developing the diseases and problems that are associated with soy consumption.

To avoid increasing your chances of thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and cancer you absolutely need to stay away from large and consistent consumption of soy that is processed and unfermented. That means you should stay away from the following:

• Soy protein powder
• Soy milk
• Soy “meat” replacements including soy “chicken”, bacon, and sausage
• Soy cheese
• All Western soy products

If you have anything like that in your refrigerator, freezer, or pantry, get rid of it right now. There is also a hidden danger. A lot of those protein bars that you may have lying around the house also have soy protein as their main protein source. Throw those away too. In fact, look at everything that is processed – breakfast cereals, granola bars, etc. They may be a hidden source of soy you didn’t know about!

In other words, modern soy products are a health imposter. Main-stream headlines always read in favor of soy. We are told they are a great for a host of illnesses and for disease prevention. But the bottom line is that we are really endangering our health and our bodies by consuming it.

And if you still don’t believe me read this letter to US president Barack Obama by Sally Fallon Morell, President, the Weston A. Price Foundation by searching this link:

Here’s a taster of the letter just incase you were thinking not reading it:

Soy protein and soy flour are toxic, especially in large amounts. The US food and Drug Administration lists 288 studies on its database showing the toxicity of soy. Numerous studies show that soy consumption leads to nutrient deficiencies, digestive disorders, endocrine disruption and thyroid problems

Consume Small Amounts of Fermented Soy

After all that soy-bashing, you’d think I’d tell you to avoid soy foods completely. This is not entirely true. One of the healthiest cultures (based on life expectancy and obesity rates) the Japanese include soy as a part of their diets, the important thing to note is they only have 4-7grams of ferment soy. If you must have it, have ferment soy and only in small amounts. Remember, 4 to 7 grams is around a teaspoon.

The Japanese enjoy soy as a condiment, for example a small cup of miso soup or incorporating tempeh or tamari into a dish they are cooking. These are all fermented products. (Remembering that the fermentation process destroy the toxins that are present in unfermented soy.)

Don’t include soy in your diet thinking it will make you any healthier. Health is something that requires many components to work together. A healthy diet and solid training program is the best place to start.

If you want to include soy in your diet, its best to treat fermented soy foods not as a replacement for a whole nutrient group but as a compliment to your existing healthy diet. Remember the Japanese would only have around a teaspoon of soy!

Summing Things Up

Wow, that’s a lot of information to take in. In this class, you just learned that the commonly held belief that ‘soy foods are healthy’ is wrong. Well, at least part of it is wrong. There is a strong distinction between modern or Western soy products and traditional or Eastern soy products. The Asian populations only started consuming them after they learned about how to ferment them. The fermentation process destroys the toxins that the modern methods leave intact. This is a major flaw in the logic that all soy foods are healthy.

Another problem lies in over processing the modern soy foods. Turning a legume into something that resembles chicken or a hot dog is just not natural. The body will not perform optimally if you consume a high amount of processed foods. Not only that, but there is an over-consumption problem as well. Most Asians do not consume large amounts of soy and prefer to use it as a condiment. Tamari, for example, is a fermented liquid that is used as a seasoning and is not considered a major food. If you do decide to consume soy, do as the Asians do and only eat fermented soy foods and use them in small quantities.

Action Steps

If you want to make positive changes to your health, it is vital that you do the following:

1. Get rid of any dangerous soy products you may have in the house or eliminate all together.

2. Further educate yourself on the dangers of soy.

3. Try a traditional fermented soy food such as miso or tempeh.

4. Get rid of any foods that incorporate soy sauce. Season your Asian inspired dishes with tamari instead.

5. If you do have a traditional soy food such as tempeh or miso, consume it in small quantities.

Most importantly, remember to be smart about your food choices. If you want to live a healthy lifestyle and achieve a great body, taking these action steps is just one aspect. And remember, don’t fall for health imposers!

Additional Resources

Do you want more information about the dangers of soy? Visit the Weston A. Price organization’s website at,23599,21057611-421,00.html

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About Mark Ottobre 1 Article

I started my journey into fitness as “The Fat Kid”. In fact, I was so good at being the fat kid that a teacher once told me ‘on a scale of 1 to 10 in useless lumps I was an 11!’ Combine that with the alias of “Pork Chop” and being so dorky that your best friend was Nintendo makes for one loser kid.

In primary school, I HATED (hated) lunch time. One hour of walking around the school as a loner. I never understood why I couldn’t just eat my lunch and go home early. As the dorky-loser kid who doesn’t fit in you have choices. You can either be picked on and bullied – or, you can smash a kids head against a pole for calling you fat.

I chose the latter.

So I wasn’t ‘bullied’. But I was a loner. A fat kid who never could understand why the other kids didn’t like me. I remember the angst in my mother’s eyes one day when I ran home from school crying. It’s like I could see her thinking… “Why doesn’t my boy fit in? I wish I could make his pain go away”.

It would be many, many years before I figured out what was wrong with me and why I didn’t fit in. It was actually very simple. I wasn’t like any of the other kids at school, not like them at all.

They accepted the status quo.
I didn’t.

They did everything they could to be the same.
I did everything I could to be different.

I was direct, blunt, knew what I wanted and the idea of saying what you were ‘supposed to say’ to get along with people just wasn’t me. Plus rumour had it that I was one of the ‘dumb kids’.

I was The Fat Kid up until I turned 15. That’s when I started to hit the weights. I went from a fat kid to an in-shape adolescent but still had the communication skills of a geek.

Weight training taught me the value of goal setting and that if you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything you set your mind to! Just kidding … but did you think you were reading something out of Disney for a moment?!

The gym did teach me about goal setting, but what it gave me above all else was a place I could hang out andtotally be myself. In fact, my socially awkward, introverted personality could be left alone with the occasional encouraging comment, ‘hey you work really hard’, or ‘good to see a young guy so committed’. I was at peace at the gym, my ultimate happy place.

So everyday after high school I would catch the 355 bus to my gym and train. School holidays meant twice a day training. I had no idea what I was actually doing, but that wasn’t the point. The point was I was at the gym and had people around me who were like me.

And really, that’s what the gym has always been for me. A happy and sacred place where hard work gets rewarded. Not your outfit, your social standing, or how good looking you are, but busting hard work and grit.

My Underlying Demon…

I went from The Fat Kid to the The Skinny Kid. Some guys go to the gym to get big, I went to the gym to get lean. Again, much like my training at the time, my nutrition plan lacked any real wisdom as I plowed through hundreds of Bodybuilding mags, convinced that it was a matter of “trial and error”.

I tried every half-baked approach to get leaner and all of them left me frustrated (not to mention hungry).

In 2004 I met a trainer who convinced me to compete. This was probably the worst and best advice I received and for the same reasons. I did everything you could possibly do wrong and placed dead last in my first bodybuilding competition. On stage I was 68 kilos. To give you you an idea of how ridiculous this weight was for my body-frame, I put on 14 kilos in 3 days after the comp. Granted, much of it was fluid and my muscles re-fueling much needed glycogen. I starved to get up on stage and my grey-hound looking physique was rewarded with the wooden-spoon.


When I say it was also the best advice, if I hadn’t had this experience, I wouldn’t have the empathy I have today for newbie competitors following impractical and resultless plans.

Convinced that these efforts weren’t representative of what I actually looked liked (because ‘gainz bro’) I competed again in 2005. I looked significantly better and even scored my first of many second place trophies.

After I stepped off stage in 2005, I spent the following year living as a wannabe bodybuilder. To those not familiar with the ‘wannabe bodybuilding lifestyle’ this means obsessing over how you look, taking all pleasure away from food and having huge amounts of guilt for not sticking to your diet.

But “broz” got me convinced that I still got to make “gainz”. So I bulked up to 97 kilos. This was all while I was still dealing with the identity of a fat kid. I wasn’t in a good space.



By chance, INBA Natural Mr. Olympia, Warren Clampit was at my gym doing a taste test for a supplement company. I saw him and got inspired. I asked him if he would help me compete in 2007. So I competed twice in 2007, receiving another two second place trophies.

This time I thought I had the post-comp thing figured out. Wrong.

I spent much of 2007 obsessing over my body and my food. I probably smiled a total of 12 times over the 6 months following the comp. That’s when good fortune lead me to studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and becoming a student of Dr John Demartini. With the guidance of John and the tools of NLP, I started to coach myself out of the dark misery that was food and body obsession and create a new identity for myself.

I wouldn’t be writing this now if I hadn’t succeeded.


2005 to 2013

This is when I really started to understand “how to” harness the power of mind.

One by one, I started to change my beliefs, ideals and attitudes around food and my relationship with my body. This involved rewriting everything I knew and creating new norms. It took me many thousands of hours of study and self reflection.

The local gym I was working at began running Strongman competitions. I was too scared to compete in the first one they ran and convinced myself that I couldn’t. Eventually, the gym’s owner, George Mariolis convinced me to compete in the under 90 kilo class. I competed and dominated all day…. Until the last event.

To win, I had to throw a 100 kilo stone over a horizontal pole a total of 10 times. So here I go, I pick it up for the 10th time with 5 seconds left on the clock and I hit the pole and it rolls the other way.

Now that’s a total of FOUR second place trophies. (Like one, two, three, FOUR!!)

I lost by half a point that day. Half a point.

Just like I lost the previous bodybuilding competition, half a point.

Later that year I went to a business conference with Dale Beaumont. Dale asked everyone to title their next 90-Day Action Plan. My title was inspired by God of War III on Playstation 3…

Killing Zeus!

See, God of War III is a game about redemption. You spend the first two games searching for answers and being frustrated and the third game getting your revenge by killing the Gods. Of course, the ultimate God for all of life’s disappointments being Zeus.

My Zeus was being second place and it had to die a slow, painful death.

November 2011. Melbourne’s Strongest Man.

The stage was set. The concrete sealed. The 200 kilo tires polished. The chalk bucket refilled. I woke up that morning with my game face on. I was calm and centred ready for action.

Event one, Tires + Famers walk
Everything’s coming up Millhouse!
(I mean Mark, yes that is a Simpsons reference. You’re welcome).

Event two, Tire Drag
What do you mean second?

Event three, Overhead Medley
Like they even had a chance, 16 seconds!

Event Four, Axel Deadlift for Reps
No, no, no. Not SECOND!!

Event 5, Stones 75kilo to 130kilo.
The tie breaker. I had to get all 5 stones to win and seal my win. I was ahead on points by just 1. If Sim (my competition for the day) hit all 5 stones and I didn’t, this could be my 5th second place trophy. I was not about to let that happen.

So I breathed in deep.
Rid myself of all attachment but only to complete the task and say,

Zeus dies now…

After I lifted that final stone, I didn’t actually realise I had won. I was so happy that day! The “second-place-oh-so-close-comeback-next-year” curse had been lifted.

“The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step”
– Lao-tzu, Chinese Philosopher

In the process I worked as a guest writer for Muscle Mag; was published on T-Nation; had a client feature in WHO magazine; taught and educated trainers at the Australian Institute of Fitness; developed a membership site (The Alpha Body); wrote two eBooks (The Truth About Supplements and Eat Your Way To Abs); started a podcast show (Maximus Mark Radio) interviewing pioneers in the field of training, nutrition and health; featured (twice) on Maxs Muscle T.V.; presented at the 21 Convention; and was interviewed on my business success on the Business Blueprint Channel.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t prove my worth as a trainer by actually delivering high level results. I have coached some very inspiring and amazing people, including four-time Ms Australia and Arnold Classic Winner, Janet Kane; Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist and Bantamweight Australian Champion, Andrew Moloney; former Welterweight Australian Champion Fred Tukes; as well as countless champion figure competitors at regional, state, national and international levels. At this point, I have lost count of the physique titles and champions I have coached. It’s a lot.


By doing so I was awarded my PICP (Poliquin International Certification Program) level 5 in 2014. The PICP level 5 is an honour only few strength coaches and trainers achieve as the only way to earn it is to help cliental achieve world-class results (like winning a gold medal on an international stage). It’s an honour that very few coaches around the world have earned and I am very proud to be one of them.

So I officially opened my studio in March of 2013. People often think Enterprise Fitness in Richmond has been opened for 10 years due to the structure and success. Well in truth, it has been open for 10 years. I have held the vision in my head for at least that long.

I don’t have a story about having to struggle to pay trainers or rent, or how I had to sell my Playstation collection to buy a squat rack. I planned for its success and from the day we opened our doors there has been steady business growth. Today we operate with a team of 14 (including myself) and serve over 250 one-hour personal training sessions a week.


I did this all with no university education, no angel investor backing me or being groomed for business by a rich, wise and business savvy family member. I did it on my own and found my own way (something which no one can ever take away from me). Excuse me if I sound arrogant, but I am damn proud of my journey… I mean what were the chances I would be as good as I am as a trainer and business owner? It’s not that I lack humility, it’s that I am very aware of the personal and professional struggle it takes to achieve being at the top of an industry.

My crowning jewel in the journey is not the money, the titles, the champions, the studio or the people I’ve helped, it’s the person I have become in the process. I am more self aware now than I have ever been and I honestly and truly believe physical training and self reflection are the two best tools one can use for personal growth… My life is an example of that.

In late 2015, I wanted to up the ante once more by launching my personal and professional development program for trainers. My Wolfpack Mentoring program was born, selling out in just 5 days. This program is the combination of all the hard hitting personal and professional lessons I have learnt over the years from being the loser fat kid to the trainer of champions, to now, champion of trainers.

Check out the interview I did on the Business Blueprint channel by leaving your name and details in the box below (or on the home page). It’s jam packed with more gems about my journey.

Mark Ottobre
Owner and Founder of Enterprise Fitness

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