‘You Are What You Eat’ – 5 Key Takeaways From The New Netflix Series

January 21, 2024

If you aren’t vegan yet, you might be after watching the new four-part Netflix Series ‘You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment’ It’s based on the groundbreaking study by Stanford Medicine published last November about 22 pairs of identical twins and examines the impact of food choices – one twin eats vegan food for eight weeks while the other follows an omnivore diet. Stanford’s nutrition scientist, Christopher Gardner, chose to work with twins to control for genetics and similar lifestyle choices.

Official Netflix trailer for ‘You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment’

The docuseries features four of the twins from the study and reveals multiple health benefits of eating vegan, including proof that in as little as eight weeks, a vegan diet improves cardiovascular health. However, the series is also about the environmental destruction of our earth from animal agriculture and the immense suffering farmed animals endure. It’s these issues, in addition to the health benefits of eating plant-based, that make it a must-watch series.

1. Eating Plants Is Healthier Than Eating Animals

Image credit: Netflix

Viewers are introduced to the charming and often funny identical twins as they undergo medical evaluations. For the first four weeks, participants receive prepared meals and for the last four, they shop and prepare food themselves while sticking to their assigned diet. Twins are monitored extensively for changes in their health and metrics. By the end of eight weeks twins on the vegan diet lost an average of 4.2 more pounds than the omnivores and had significantly lower cholesterol.

The vegans showed a 20% drop in fasting insulin, this is crucial because higher insulin levels are a risk factor for developing diabetes. The vegan twin’s microbiome was in better health than their omnivore sibling and harmful fat surrounding their organs, visceral fat, had significantly reduced, unlike the omnivore twin. Overall findings suggest a healthy plant-based diet has “significant protective cardiometabolic advantage compared with a healthy omnivorous diet.”

The Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, makes several appearances in the series and is living proof that eating plants is healthier than eating animals. Switching to a plant-based diet put Adam’s Type 2 diabetes into remission, restored his eyesight, and helped save his life. Adams is the force behind Vegan Fridays and has“made plant-based meals the default option for all inpatients in their network of 11 public hospitals”, outlined in the Safe and Just report.

2. Human Disease And Environmental Racism 

Image credit: Mercy for Animals / Getty

Image credit: Rick Dove/Waterkeeper Alliance

The number of pigs in North Carolina far exceeds the number of people with many concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) in the region, some with up to 60,000 animals each. Human suffering is directly related to animal agriculture here, one of the biggest producers of “pork” in the world. Factory farmed pigs struggle to survive crammed together in horrific conditions.

Pig farms produce massive amounts of waste and huge open-air cesspools are packed with feces and urine. These lagoons contaminate local water sources, harm aquatic ecosystems, and cause health complications for people. Pig waste is literally sprayed into the air by sprinklers very close to family homes, the majority of which are minorities located in low-income neighbourhoods.

The Guardian explains, “Families living near hog CAFOs saw higher rates of infant mortality and deaths from anaemia, kidney disease, and tuberculosis.” They continue, “These issues ‘disproportionately affect’ people of colour: African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos are far more likely to live near CAFOs.”

3. Animals Suffering On Factory Farms

Viewers are taken on a journey inside factory farms crammed with animals that are sick, dead, injured, and living in their own waste. Through interviews with a former chicken farmer, we learn how these beautiful, gentle birds are bred “just to suffer” and forced into dirty tiny spaces where they don’t see sunlight and cannot spread their wings. Chickens today are genetically bred to have oversized breasts and their organs and entire skeletal system cannot support them.

Footage showing cruelty and suffering inside factory farms.

Salmon are crowded in cramped and diseased conditions. 
Image: Off the Table

Millions of fish confined to salmon farms cause pollution and are pushing wild fish to extinction. These massive farms keep over a million fish captive and span four football fields. Farmed salmon are crowded into colossal pools so packed that it becomes a health and environmental disaster due to clouds of waste, excrement, and pathogens. Videos of sick, diseased, and dying fish on aqua farms are haunting – more than 50% of fish sold in supermarkets today are globally farmed.

4. Greenhouse Gases And Climate Change

96% of cows raised for their meat in the United States come from industrial feedlots. Cows cannot move freely and stand there day after day, eating extremely high caloric foods like corn and soy to be fattened up quickly. Image of cow’s meat in cellophane wrappers on grocery store shelves helps viewers make the connection that these products came from living breathing creatures. Images of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and aerial views of feedlots are shocking.

Cows in a feedlot. Image: Sentient Media

George Monbiot, journalist and supporter of the Plant Based Treaty, explains the meat industry produces “vast amounts of pollution.” Cows burp methane, a greenhouse gas much worse than carbon dioxide. Monbiot explains the agricultural industry is one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gasses on earth – the main driver of climate change. “The livestock sector produces more greenhouse gasses than the entire global transportation sector.”

5. Longer Life Expectancy For Vegans

Biological age is how old your cells are, as opposed to your chronological age which is the number you celebrate on your birthday. On day one of the study, participant’s telomeres were measured at the same length. (Telomeres are “the specific DNA-protein structures found at both ends of each chromosome.”) By the end of study, all the twins on the vegan diet had longer telomeres and were now biologically younger than their sibling on the omnivore diet, whose telomeres didn’t change. This sign of reversed aging proves you can change your biology in a profound way just by changing your dietary pattern over a fairly short period of time.

 After cameras stopped rolling, the four sets of twins are either eating more plant-based meals, eating half as much meat as before, have mostly cut out red meat, or are now vegetarian. ‘You Are What You Eat’ is currently trending in the top 10 most-watched shows in 71 countries, including Canada, The United States, and United Kingdom.

Miriam Porter is an award-winning writer who writes about veganism, social justice issues, and eco-travel. Miriam currently lives in Toronto with her son Noah and many rescued furry friends. She is a passionate animal rights activist and speaks up for those whose voices cannot be heard.