by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Film

Jan 2 2024

The Stanford Twin Study: Now on Netflix!

A press release from Stanford University announced: Twin research indicates that a vegan diet improves cardiovascular health.

A Stanford Medicine-led trial of identical twins comparing vegan and omnivore diets found that a vegan diet improves overall cardiovascular health.

In a study with 22 pairs of identical twins, Stanford Medicine researchers and their colleagues have found that a vegan diet improves cardiovascular health in as little as eight weeks.

If this sounds like the basis of a Netflix documentary, it is.  Here’s the trailer.  Here’s where to find the film.

The study: Cardiometabolic Effects of Omnivorous vs Vegan Diets in Identical TwinsA Randomized Clinical Trial.

Intervention  Twin pairs were randomized to follow a healthy vegan diet or a healthy omnivorous diet for 8 weeks. Diet-specific meals were provided via a meal delivery service from baseline through week 4, and from weeks 5 to 8 participants prepared their own diet-appropriate meals and snacks.

Findings:  In this randomized clinical trial of 22 healthy, adult, identical twin pairs, those consuming a healthy vegan diet showed significantly improved low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration, fasting insulin level, and weight loss compared with twins consuming a healthy omnivorous diet.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this randomized clinical trial, we observed cardiometabolic advantages for the healthy vegan vs the healthy omnivorous diet among healthy, adult identical twins. Clinicians may consider recommending plant-based diets to reduce cardiometabolic risk factors, as well as aligning with environmental benefits.

The study has its share of detractors, American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), for example: Stanford Medicine Releases Confirmation Bias Study; Media Takes The Bait.  Its chief criticisms

  • The improvements were in biomarkers, not health.
  • Both diets were healthy,
  • Obviously, diets without cholesterol will reduce cholesterol.
  • Vitamin B12 levels were ldeficient on the vegan diet.

Comment: The ACSH is an industry-funded front group.  Low B12 is an easy problem to solve, and vegans, who by definition eat no foods of animal origin, have to make sure they complensate for its absence.

The twin idea is clever and adorable—and the reason for the press attention and for the Netflix documentary.  The study shows that vegan diets improve cardiovascular risk biomarkers in healthy people.  Why not?  This is further evidence for the benefits of largely plant-based diets.

Jun 16 2023

Weekend viewing: Poisoned!

Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food, a Netflix documentary about food safety in the U.S., premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and I got to go.

It’s based on the book by Jeff Benedict about the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 poisonings in 1993, and features Bill Marler, the lawyer who represented the families of kids who got sick or died from eating undercooked hanburgers contaminated with that especially toxic form of E. coli.  

I got to go to the premier because I’m in it—one of the many talking heads.

From left to right: Alexa Ginsburg, Associate Producer; Kristen Lazure, Producer; Bill Marler, food safety lawyer and Poisoned star; Ross Dinerstein, Producer; Jeff Benedict, Author of Poisoned; Christine Haughney, Journalist; Sarah Sorscher, CSPI; Me; Darin Detwiler, father of boy who died from eating a Jack in the Box hamburger and food safety advocate; Stephanie Soechtig, Director.

My interview for this was so long ago—prepandemic?—that I had forgotten all about it.  I may be prejudiced but I think the film is terrific.

It really lays out what’s wrong with our food safety system and what needs to be done to fix it.  I thought I knew this stuff pretty well—see my book Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety—but I learned a lot from it, partly because the photography is so well done.

Some images are unforgettable (spoiler alert):

  • The children hooked up to tubes in hospitals.
  • Their grieving parents.
  • Vast confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) right next to fields of vegetables.
  • Representatives of the USDA and FDA: “the US has the safest food supply in the world.”
  • Bill Marler saying that he no longer has cases of people sick from eating hamburger since the USDA declared E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant.

It’s really worth seeing.

While waiting for Netflix to schedule it, Marler explains how you can see it on Tribeca at Home.

At Home Virtual Screenings will take place June 19 – July 2

    • Browser:
      • Members can use their login credentials (email & password) to access the At Home portal.
      • Single ticket holders can redeem their 9-digit voucher code for their screening. This code can be found in the confirmation email.
    • App: “Tribeca At Home”/ Available on Apple TV, Fire TVRoku
    • TV:
      • Download the OTT app for Apple TV (Gen4 and above), Fire TV, or Roku
      • Chromecast [3rd generation or later Chromecast stick] from a computer using the Chrome browser or an Android device to your TV.
      • Airplay from a computer, iPhone or iPad to your Apple TV (Gen 4 and above) or to any Smart TV bearing the “AirPlay” badge.
      • Connect your laptop to your TV via HDMI, VGA, or DVI cables.
    • Computer:
      • PCs running Windows 7+ [Browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera]
      • Intel-based Macs running macOS 10.12+  [Browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera]
      • *Internet Explorer is not supported
    • iPhone / iPad / Android:
      • Android: use Chrome on Android 6.0 or later
      • iPhone/iPad: use Safari on iOS 11.2 or later

It will get to Netflix evenually.  Watch out for it.

Jun 7 2019

Weekend viewing: The Biggest Little Farm

I rarely review food movies, but this is an especially good one, beautifully filmed, inspiring, yet raw enough to ring true: The Biggest Little Farm.

I saw this in Ithaca’s Cinemopolis last week along with about ten other people.  There should have been more.  It’s well worth seeing.

The film is about a young couple (John Chester is a filmmaker, Molly Chester is a professional cook), with a dream to farm in a way that promotes biodiversity.  They know nothing about farming but somehow acquire 200 acres of barren, parched land an hour north of Los Angeles.

Well advised to apply principles of regenerative agriculture, they transform the soil and turn the property into a lush orchard in served by a Noah’s ark of animals, chickens, ducks—and endlessly invasive wildlife.

The film, conceived, directed, and gorgeously filmed by John Chester, develops its dramatic tension and emotional depth from the realities of making this farm project work.  Nature is indeed red in tooth and claw; coyotes do kill chickens every chance they get; and beloved pigs do get sick.

By year seven, the farm is stunningly beautiful, fully regenerated, ecologically balanced, and productive.

This is vastly inspiring; farming as it ought to be done is not easy, but it is possible and worth doing.

See this film and decide for yourself whether you find it as charming as I did.

With that said, I walked out of the movie with one burning question: What was the business model?

The farm looks expensive, very expensive.  How did the Chesters get the money to do this and survive the years before they could sell anything, especially since 70% of the early fruit crops were consumed by birds?

The film mentions an investor but provides no details.  I want them.

The biggest barrier to young people going into farming is the cost—of land, equipment, labor, plants, animals.  How did this couple, who had no money to start with, finance this farm?

Other people who want to do this kind of farming need to know this.