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You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment Docuseries Review

We’ve heard it all before, haven’t we? Clean up the diet and live a healthy lifestyle. The problem is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what that diet and lifestyle should be.   


Or is there? 


Due to the many genetic variations among humans, it has been difficult to quantify a diet that will make a difference for everybody. 


That is until a group of scientists realized that there are people that are genetically the same. Twins! 


Thus, the Stanford Twins Nutrition Study was underway in May of 2022. The study allowed scientists to compare the effect of two diets on pretty much the same person at the same time. 


The study itself followed 22 pairs of identical twins over eight weeks as they take on a healthy, or in their cases, healthier lifestyle. All sets of twins were tested to ensure that there was no evidence of cardiovascular disease. 


The team of scientists wanted to find out if there was any true value to eating a vegan diet (plants only) versus an omnivore diet (both plants and animals). So, a twin from each set was put on each of the diets. 


Through the series, you meet members of the Stanford study team and contributors, including Dr. Christopher Gardner, a nutrition scientist, Tim Spector, professor of Twins Research at King’s College, London, and Dr. Michael Gregor, physician and author of “How Not to Die,” among others. 


I don’t know about you, but when I hear scientists, I picture dry, boring lab rats who spout numbers and jargon. I am happy to say this was not the case.   


The scientists in this series come across as people who are fascinated by the possibilities of this study and speak in understandable terms. Dr. Gregor was interesting enough that my husband and I are currently reading his book. But that’s a story for another article. (hint, hint) 


Though 22 sets of twins were part of the study, you follow just four of them in the series. The twins are Pam and Wendy, corporate/private catering chefs with a love for South African food; Charlie and Michael, “The Cheese Twins”; Carolyn and Rosalyn, who emigrated from the Philippines as children; as well as John and Jovan, nursing school students specializing in geriatrics. 


I couldn’t help liking all the twins. Their personalities and how they interact with one another keep the episodes entertaining. You almost don’t realize that you are learning something as you take this journey with them. 


The docuseries shares what markers they are measuring to determine any changes the twins experience on their diets.  


 The study team measures changes in cognition (brain activity), cholesterol levels, inflammation, microbiome (healthy microbes in our gut), epigenome markers (biological clock), and body composition (fat vs muscle). 


The twins are tested for these markers at three different times throughout the study. Of course, at the beginning and end. What I didn’t expect was the test midway.   


The twins had all their diet-specific meals provided for them in the first four weeks. For the second four weeks, they had to cook for themselves following the diet guidelines.   


The team wanted to know if the results would see sizeable differences between a perfect scenario and the real world. 


Bonus entertainment:  an additional test that was made part of the study looked at women’s sexual health and diet. Won’t give it all away, but there is good news indeed for women who improve their diets. 


The docuseries addresses some different issues throughout each episode, aside from what the twins are experiencing. Those issues include environmental concerns, animal welfare, and that most people believe vegan diets are boring and difficult to follow. 


I will own it. Like most people, I did not like to think about how meat got to the grocery store. I appreciate that the topic is addressed in the series without being graphic.  


The filmmaker tastefully shows what it takes to raise enough meat products to satisfy an omnivorous society’s hunger. They also show what that process is doing to the places in the world where the meat is produced. 


I am happy that, though they do talk about what is happening in the meat industry, the series shows positive changes that are even now happening. 


Throughout the series, I enjoyed learning about companies that are focused on making vegan food choices that are not just nutritious but are pleasing to the eye and taste buds, too. 


You will get to meet Thomas Locke, a regenerative cattle rancher, Daniel Humm, Chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park, a three Michelin star (now) vegan restaurant, and Craig Watts, former factory chicken farmer, just to name a few. 


One of my favorite people in the series was Miyoko Schinner, owner of Miyoko’s Creamery. She owns it; she is a cheese lover, and giving it up was what made going to a totally plant-based diet a no-go.   


That is, until she figured out how to craft vegan cheeses that look, feel, and taste like the dairy option. (Hint-hint, another up and coming article). 


The series finishes with the big reveal. How did the twins fair on their diets? If you want those answers, you’re going to have to tune in to Netflix to find out.   


The “You are What You Eat” is a worthwhile and entertaining limited series. My husband and I binged watched it in one evening. The first three episodes are 44 to 45 minutes each. The last one is an hour long. 


So, grab your popcorn or other snack of choice, and enjoy. You’ve nothing to lose in tuning in. You may even gain some healthy and enjoyable dietary changes by the end of it. 



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