Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, director of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Navarra and visiting professor at Harvard University, presents his latest book Science and conscience to resist , written with the scientific journalist Marisol Guisasola.
The studies of Martínez-González (Málaga, 63 years old) have contributed to the advice given from Harvard to Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the United States, to improve public health and nutrition in her country.
Martínez-González has led the Predimed network of researchers, the largest trial carried out so far in Europe on the effects of the Mediterranean diet on health.
In an interview with EL PAÍS, the nutrition epidemiologist with the most scientific publications in Spain talks about the thousands of deaths that have generated conflicts of interest between pharmaceutical companies, agribusiness and scientific research; criticizes the management of the coronavirus, especially the lack of prevention and the delays in hiring doctors, denounces the lack of resources for science and recommends the Mediterranean diet as the best way to face the obesity pandemic.
His new book is called ¿Qué Comes? Science and consciousness to resist. Against whom or what is there to resist?
Pressure from certain sectors of the food industry must be resisted. A citizen who is well educated, has good judgment, and reads this book is able to resist these commercial pressures.
For that, you need to be guided by serious research and free of conflicts of interest, not by the latest Internet celebrity or a blog or a dietitian paid by multinationals. Much of the nutrition information that people receive is motivated by economic interests, not public health interests.
The other meaning is that one is much better resistant to an infectious pandemic, such as the coronavirus, if one is well nourished, with a Mediterranean diet.
In the book, you denounce the relationship between the pharmaceutical and agri-food industry with scientific research. How does it work and why is it so serious?
You cannot demonize the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, but there have been millions of deaths in the world due to the conflicts of interest of doctors with these multinationals because they have misrepresented or hidden the results of studies that did not suit them.
In addition to deaths, there are millions of sick people who have been abused; They have not received the medication based on the best scientific evidence, but on the one that could produce the greatest economic benefit.
Is something similar happening with the agri-food industry?
Yes, the problem is that this affects us all, not just those who are sick. We all have to eat, three times a day, every day. Unhealthy eating patterns also kill many millions of people. Obesity alone causes the death of four million people each year. So here the conflicts of interest are much more serious, only they are not as proven or as documented as in the pharmaceutical industry.
What alternative do you propose to overcome these conflicts of interest?
I am not worth the excuse of researchers who say that since public funds are difficult to obtain, then they receive money from companies that have an interest in their product being sold. Scientists cannot be the lackeys of the power of multinationals.
That is not a valid excuse. Public funds are there and if you work on them well and form a powerful team, you get national and foreign money.”Much of the nutrition information that people receive is motivated by economic interests, not public health interests”