Doctor, specialized in Preventive Medicine and Public Health, started up this same department at the University of Navarra. Miguel Ángel Martínez-González (Málaga, 1957) is also a visiting professor at Harvard. He has led the Predimed research network, the largest trial to date on the effects of the Mediterranean diet and health habits. Just published ¿What are you eating? Science and Consciousness for resistir (Planeta), in collaboration with the popularizer Marisol Guisasola.
What mistakes are the most common when it comes to eating?
There is no field where there is so much confusion, due to interference from the food industry. Ingredients such as white bread, pasta, potatoes … or pizza, which has too much salt, are associated with the Mediterranean diet. And the salt is not funny at all. We must say goodbye to many myths, in addition to the fact that there is another reality, and that is that we eat too much bread. There is too strong a lobby in the food industry that prevents these habits from being changed, in addition to making labels that no one reads. There are conflicts of interest on the part of some scientists, who receive funding from brands to develop projects, and in the end they create confusion, such as that which exists with red and processed meat. There are too many scandals in food.
Why have you decided to take out the shame in this book?
Because there is too much confusion, because myths and pseudoscience have to be debunked. This is an interest free book, especially since it is not funded by the food industry. All this work is the result of the research work carried out at the University of Navarra, in which 23,000 volunteers have participated in 250 studies. It seems that the coronavirus pandemic is the largest that we have suffered in recent times, and it is not. There are other non-infectious pandemics, which damage us daily and are related to diet, such as myocardial infarctions, strokes, Alzheimer’s, breast or colon cancer, diabetes, depression or obesity. And all this can be prevented with a correct eating pattern.
Is the concept of the Mediterranean diet a mixed bag?
What has been done is wrong. What we call today the Mediterranean diet is the type of diet of the Mediterranean populations in the fifties and sixties, what our grandparents ate. And that is not the eating pattern that these countries follow today. Not everything goes, that’s why you have to put a red traffic light on everything that is not part of this diet, and pizza does not enter there. Not even the potatoes that are pure starch. It is necessary to explain what this diet is rich in, scientifically considered the healthiest of all.
Illustrate us with the information you handle.
In one study, we have changed the dietary pattern of 7,500 people over five years, and we have seen a 30% reduction in myocardial infarctions, stroke, or cardiovascular death. We have seen that these changes reduce the disease that causes the most deaths in the world.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
There are foods that should be given a red light, such as meat. The traditional diet of the Mediterranean countries is characterized by a low consumption of red meat and processed meat products. In this group are dairy products, rich in saturated fat. This diet only included fermented dairy, such as cheese and yogurt, but in small amounts. I always say that before a piece of fruit or a dairy, fruit is preferable.
And what foods have a green traffic light?
The olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is high in fat due to the high consumption of oil, which has proven health effects. Also for fresh, unprocessed vegetables. This includes vegetables, greens, fruits, legumes, nuts and cereals. This does not include potatoes, which are not part of this diet. You have to consume natural or semi-processed products. A tomato does not need labels and a hake, either, because they are real foods, and the most absent from the shopping cart that comes out of the supermarket.
Any more food to add to the shopping cart?
Without falling into excesses, fish and shellfish, common in this diet, and a source of protein, whose consumption varied depending on the proximity to the sea. The consumption of eggs is also allowed, three or four times a week, and wine in moderation during meals. What not to include are the Frankfurt sausages, loaded with chemical additives. We do not know the amount of preservatives and stabilizers, of chemistry that is put into these foods. And this leads to premature death.
There’s a boom of the miracle diets to lose weight, what do you think of them?
All these diets are effective, but in the short term, because the weight is gained again. It’s the yo-yo effect. They are extreme diets and do not have that flavor of the Mediterranean diet. The doctor Grande Covián said it, the food on a dessert plate. When you follow these types of more balanced diets, you have a more modest, but healthier, weight loss. I also want to say that the proceeds from the copyright of this book will go to fund food and public health research. Because there is another pandemic, as serious as the coronavirus, and it is obesity, and there is no sign that it will disappear. The coronavirus will disappear in two years, obesity will not.
What should work meals be like?
Work meals are everyone’s responsibility. It is easy to end a meal of this type with desserts, this means ending with sugar. Worst. Choose a plate or two of vegetables. Training is not incompatible with having criteria.