The New Netflix Docu-Series ‘You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment’ Makes You Rethink Your Food Choices

twin experiment

It’s ubiquitous to set the goal of following a healthy diet plan as your New Year’s resolution. So Netflix very aptly dropped a new show on 1st January (also the month that kickstarts Veganaury); one that basically tells you the importance of eating right and pushes you to switch to a plant-based diet. You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment lures you into a Stanford University eating experiment conducted by Nutrition Scientist Christopher Gardener. 


What’s The Experiment About?  

22 pairs of twins signed up for this experiment but the show documents the diet plan and lifestyle of only four pairs over 8 weeks. Out of every pair of twins, one adopts a strictly vegan diet, while the other sticks to the omnivore diet, which typically consists of all things like dairy and meat. The twins eat different sets of food to see what impact it has on their overall physical and mental well-being. For the first four weeks, food is supplied to the twins; whereas the last 4 weeks see the twins cook on their own, which allows them to go to the store, get ingredients and decide the quantity for themselves. This is done to study the impact on cardiovascular health, metabolism and gut microbiome. 

Twin Experiment

But why twins? “Everybody knows the average American diet is not very healthy. We sometimes call it the Standard American Diet or S.A.D. for sad. That’s why as a nutritionist scientist, I’ve tested many diets over the years, looking for the healthiest ones. A major challenge in nutrition studies is that everyone is unique and individuals respond differently to the same food. So what if we got people who are genetically the same?” says Gardener. 

Identical twins have the same mannerisms, making them the ideal natural experiment because each individual has identical genes in every cell of their body. So they are the perfect way to tell nature from nurture.

twin experiment

The Result

After 8 weeks, the twins eating the plant-based diet saw significant changes that surprised the Stanford research team – an increase in their life expectancy; reduced visceral fat (the dangerous fat that accumulates around organs); reduced risk of heart disease; increased gut microbiomes and even a heightened sexual drive.


Beyond The Experiment

While the twin experiment is portrayed as the main focus of the show, it largely makes you question what you eat and sheds light on the debate of eating processed meat and dairy products versus plant-based food. Some people on the Internet are criticising the show for being biased toward vegan food and believe it became more of an agenda to propel vegan propaganda.

The show highlights the connection your food habits – especially meat and dairy – have with environmental conservation and climate change. For instance, the documentary shows the negative side of the poultry industry where millions of chickens when bred and kept in tiny areas can lead to bacterial infections and then cause infections in humans when consumed. The cattle that graze on fields get that much land after forests have been blown up or cut down. Pig faeces are collected in large pools and then thrown on land that’s close to neighbourhoods, leading to widespread stench and diseases. Little is touched upon seafood but overfishing along with wild-caught and farm-raised seafood faces criticism. Does this mean if the flaws in the system are reversed, it will be okay to consume meat, dairy and seafood? The show could have had someone comment on this.

“Vegan documentaries NEVER address the elephant in the room about how full of chemicals and highly processed the vast majority of vegan alternatives are and how expensive the ones that aren’t are,” one Internet user said. The show also brings Michelin-star chef Daniel Humm on board to talk about his decision to make his restaurant Eleven Madison Park switch from serving meat to vegan food overnight.

twin experiment

I have nothing against eating plant-based or vegan diets; I’m all for it, being someone who eats both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. However, I do believe that the documentary could have addressed the few negative remarks that have been made revolving around vegan food over the years. The first episode briefly mentions how fresh vegetables and fruits are inaccessible in certain areas, which forces people to opt for cheaper, meaty fast food; but that’s about it.

The gist of the show is primarily to question where your food comes from, which is achieved. It did make me rethink some of my food choices and pay attention to my overall lifestyle. After you see the results the twins displayed, which is after maintaining a mix of a good diet and consistent exercise, it’s quite true if you think about it – you are what you eat!  

- Lifestyle Editor


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