Do you know what you eat? What no one dares to say
Eating is a matter of every day and every person. But only a few can be sure that their diet is healthy and conscious and that, when they can choose, they do so based on the teachings of science. Lack of information? What is really happening to us is that, between the advertising, the biased information, the half-truths and the absolute lies that we see on our screens, it is hard to draw conclusions.
“Eat more superfoods”; “Don’t eat that fish, it’s dangerous”; “Intermittent fasting is very beneficial to health”: those are just some of the statements we encounter every day. But is there any truth to them? And all this brings us to a harsh reality: Could you tell a proven fact from an urban legend or a mere unfounded belief?
For Dr. Martínez-González, an epidemiologist and expert on the Mediterranean diet, detecting the hoaxes and tricks that industry uses to manipulate us ends up being a challenge for consumers. That is why, after the publishing success of his book Salud a ciencia cierta [Health based on science], the doctor teamed up with nutrition journalist Marisol Guisasola in a recent interview to write ¿Qué comes? Comer con ciencia y a conciencia [What do you eat? Eating with science and conscience].
The courage to say what others don’t
The book, published by Planeta, is aimed at those who wish to take care of their diet and learn to eat. In it, specialists dispel myths, clarify urban legends and speak openly about the food and pharmaceutical industry, offering enlightening data and uncovering their dirty tricks. It is an essential and illuminating work, written in a clear style and with the courage to say what others refuse to say. “My passion is public health and I couldn’t keep quiet in the midst of so much misinformation motivated by conflicts of interest”, says the expert.
Dr. Martínez-González spoke with the CEMAS Magazine editorial team so that we could learn more about his vision:
Question: In your book, you discuss the dark interests of the health care industry. What tools will your readers gain from being more alert to the deceptions of big corporations?
Answer: The book itself, ¿Qué comes? [What Do You Eat?], is a great tool. We provide short scales and questionnaires that are very easy to understand and can be answered in a few minutes. This helps you to self-examine your nutrition habits and to score points on whether you eat well or poorly. We also provide a lot of information on other topics that are indispensable right now: How to read the labels? How to recognise ultra-processed food? What is the verdict on each of the most popular diets?
Q: There is a link between eating habits and disease prevention. What role does the sustainability of our food systems play in preventing the COVID-19 pandemic, obesity and future pandemics?
A: We have proven in studies, such as the SUN project (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra), with more than 20,000 participants and in the long term, more than 10 years of average monitoring, that high quality eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, not only prevent the consequences of obesity, but are also environmentally sustainable. On the other hand, all the scientific evidence collected so far indicates that obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19 and that these high quality patterns help to reduce such viral infections and improve their prognosis.
Q: Do you think that, little by little, humanity is becoming more aware of the importance of eating food that is fresh, healthy and in season? Why do you think this awakening has taken so long?
A: This knowledge has so far only reached the better educated and culturally aware sectors of society, but there is still a lot of misinformation. It has taken us so long because there are two very powerful forces operating against us: the hedonistic-materialistic culture and the commercial interests of certain industries with little moral conscience.
Q: In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, the planet is experiencing the silent pandemic of obesity. Why do you think the latter is not receiving the attention it deserves in public opinion?
A: There is a fear of stigmatising obese people. A key principle in public health is not to blame the victim. But this principle is also compatible with upholding the ability that a person should change their consumption habits and feel empowered to cope with commercial pressures, with genuine freedom and control. But for at least two decades, obesity and excess weight have been responsible for more deaths each year than the current COVID-19 pandemic, and we can’t forget that.
Q: What are we doing wrong, as obesity levels continue to rise? What structural changes should be implemented to combat it?
A: The worst thing is the collusion between certain doctors and nutrition experts with companies that sell junk food and drinks. There are conflicts of interest. This collusion creates “agnogenesis”, a little known term that we explain and denounce in the book. “Agnogenesis” consists of intentionally creating a sceptical and agnostic view in the population and thus extending the perception that nothing is proven in the food-health relationship. If you ask people, they’ll tell you that these nutritionists cannot make up their minds, that one day they say one thing and the next day the opposite. Agnogenesis will have served its purpose and thus, it makes it easier to always have an excuse to stray from high-quality food standards.
Are you interested in this subject? Click here to buy the book.