Jan 12, 2024 - News

New Netflix show chronicles Stanford study on vegan diets

Photo of a thin, crispy flatbread with vegetables scattered across the top

The flatbread served at plant-based restaurant Wildseed as seen in San Francisco on Oct. 22, 2019. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

A new show chronicles a study by Stanford researchers that aimed to compare the impacts of plant-based diets without the variable of genetics.

  • They did so by recruiting more than 20 pairs of identical twins and placing one on a vegan diet while the other ate an omnivore diet.

Details: Netflix's four-episode series, titled "You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment," follows four sets of twins for the eight weeks of the experiment, which found that a plant-based diet resulted in many health benefits, including reduced cholesterol, increased healthy gut bacteria, decreased inflammation and decreased insulin.

How it happened: The twins ate meals supplied by the researchers in the first four weeks before transitioning to cooking their own meals.

  • Both diets contained plenty of vegetables, whole grains and fruits but avoided sugars and refined starches.
  • The vegan diet was entirely plant-based with no meat or animal products, while the omnivore diet incorporated chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, dairy and other animal-sourced foods.
  • In just two months, the twins on the vegan diet displayed an increase in their life expectancy, a reduction in dangerous fat and a lower risk of heart disease, according to vitals taken by the researchers.

Of note: One pair of twins might be familiar faces to San Francisco residents — chefs Pam and Wendy Drew, who run the catering company Amawele's South African Kitchen.

  • After the show shot to the No. 3 most-streamed spot in the U.S. last weekend, they became local celebrities.
  • The Drews, who grew up in South Africa, have reported cutting their meat consumption in half and adding more plant-based dishes to their catering business since participating in the study.

The bottom line: "This suggests that anyone who chooses a vegan diet can improve their long-term health in two months," Christopher Gardner, a professor in the Stanford Prevention Research Center who provided dietary advice to participants during the study, said in a news release.

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