Earlier this week, I described a new Netflix documentary purporting to compare the benefits of healthy omnivore versus vegan diets. In that post, I questioned the adherence of the series to the scientific study it’s describes as being based on, and I asked, “Who \ordered this banquet?”

Well, funding for You Are What You Eat was provided by the Vogt Foundation, which, according to Charley Vogt, its secretary-treasurer, funds “organizations that protect animals and promote plant-based products.” Well, we have gotten plenty of pitches for plant-based products, often by brand name.

The Vogt Foundation also funds the Oceanic Preservation Society, which apparently includes investment by Kyle Vogt in Wild Type—a cellular agricultural start up that recently launched “sushi-grade” cell-based salmon. Kyle Vogt also is Executive Producer of the Netflix documentary.

We do not hear about the Wild Type startup or the sushi-grade salmon. But boy, do we get an earful on farmed salmon. Many presentations begin with the twin pairs talking about their diet menu and its components. One discussion is with Don Staniford, who founded Scottish Salmon Watch to campaign for the end of salmon farming in Scotland. He has carried out covert filming operations to highlight what he regards as mistreatment of the fish and environmental damage.

On a trip to the fish market, and with shots of salmon farms, he asserts that the safety and benefits of farmed salmon is “complete and utter bollocks.” He will reveal “the full horror behind salmon farming” and its products that you should “avoid like the plague.” We do not hear statistics, but general warnings about parasites, viruses, and bacteria. And a dye added to the fish that is linked to human health problems.  And seemingly without context or assertion, he will drop, “and there is diabetes.”

So, don’t think you can become a pescatarian instead of a vegan. Unless you can afford wild salmon? Well, not really, the pollution from salmon farming and other sources is alleged to be infecting wild salmon, too.

And what about dairy?  We are told that cheese is addictive and asked to consider this wonderful alternative- a pitch for cheese made from cashews.  We begin with statistics on American consumption of pizza with plant-based mozzarella cheese. One of the firms profiled has made pizzas using this cheese- “brilliant out of the box thinking,” says the narrator. And now, at the World Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, we get testimonies from passersby who taste the pizza. They love it.

In other running commentary, two celebrated chefs testify that they woke to the health and climate drawbacks of meat, and now, despite threats and warnings, run a successful vegan restaurant in Manhattan, Eleven Madison Park. We return there in show after show to see a lot of appetizing plates.

A “born-again” cattle farmer from Texas that we met earlier visits the restaurant and reports it is a transcendent experience. In the final episode, we attend the awarding of three Michelin stars to the restaurant.

Now back to the original premise. Where are those results of the Stanford twin study? We finally arrive at the fourth and final episode of the series. The most notable result is those on the vegan diet ended with a lower (i.e., more healthful) score on LDL-C),  the so-called bad cholesterol. For the omnivore group, their LDL-C levels barely budged, ending on average at 116.1 milligrams per deciliter, above the optimal maximum of 100mg/dc. For twins on the vegan diet, there was an average 13 percent decrease to 96.5 mg/dl. That is potentially important for cardiovascular and other health issues.

But this “prime” result of the study, it appears, could have been taken for granted. It is well-established. In fact, none of the outcomes of the study apparently are surprising. Walter Willet, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, commented to VOX, “There is no body of evidence that conflicts with the finding that a healthy plant-based, vegan diet as implemented in this study is better than a typical omnivore diet.”

If in fact these results are nothing new, what then was the intention of the Stanford study? Given the timing of the release of the  documentary series on January 1, 2024–just two months after publication of the study results–it must have been developed and filmed as the study was underway. Would that have been the case, given the sponsors of the documentary, if there had been any chance the study’s results would not be “pro-vegan”?  Just asking.

My intention here is not to make the case against climate alarmism (although I have done so elsewhere), nor to defend the animal husbandry industry against multiple attacks, and certainly not to evaluate the benefits of meat substitutes.

My point is that a competent (though apparently not very new) scientific study, which itself may have been designed mostly to promote veganism, became the platform for blatant propaganda. The bait-and-switch tactics draw in audiences seeking to be informed by science about their health and instead get lectures motivated by ideology—a ploy that is getting old.

With that disclaimer, let me comment briefly on two of the most egregious rants that for my own interest I followed up with a little research.

First, on the “horrors” of farmed salmon, Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard Medical School examined the entire issue and concludes:

Bottom line: Don’t stress too much about your salmon selection. Follow the American Heart Association’s advice to eat two servings of fish a week, letting affordability and availability guide your choices. As for me, I often opt for farmed salmon for dinner once a week or so, but I’ll splurge on wild salmon if it looks especially good.

Second, on the threat to global climate from the emissions of cattle, the CLEAR Center for Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research at the University of California, Davis, makes a very revealing point. Yes, gas emitted by cattle is methane, which is  a 28 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. But CO2 persists in the atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of years, whereas methane degrades almost entirely in about 12 years. This methane is made in the stomachs of ruminants from CO2 drawn from the atmosphere by plant photosynthesis, which creates cellulose in the plants upon which cattle feed. Their digestive systems convert the cellulose into methane, which they emit. Methane is emitted, degraded away, and emitted again in an repetitive cycle called atmospheric gas flow- a constant wash.

In my view, You Are What You Eat: A Twin Study exploits a scientific study to attract an audience for indoctrination. I add the footnote that two of the chief such pitches also appear to be easily debunked by science.


Walter Donway is an author and writer with more than a dozen books available on Amazon and an editor of the e-zine Savvy Street. He was program officer or director at two leading New York City foundations in the healthcare field: The Commonwealth Fund and the Dana Foundation. He has published almost two dozen articles in the Blockchain Healthcare Review.