Ford is even-handed in pointing out the conditions in which alcohol consumption is associated with increased, rather than decreased health risks, such has been found in some studies of breast cancer. But he also encourages a holistic view of health risk assessment: in the case of cancer, for example, women are encouraged to “evaluate many factors, including family history of breast cancer. They should also check the comparative risks for heart disease and breast cancer.”
In each chapter on a medical condition, Ford underscores the themes that will take up the concluding chapters of the book: American culture is singularly ambivalent — even hostile — towards alcohol; authorities presume that the public cannot distinguish between healthful use and unhealthy abuse of alcohol; policies are designed to reduce alcohol abuse by lowering consumption for all; and the medical establishment and the media withhold or underreport findings that would help Americans make more informed health choices.
Ford clearly hopes The Science of Healthy Drinking will reach physicians and parents, the two most influential groups in shaping our health choices. With luck, open-minded members of both groups will read it. There are others for whom any good news about alcohol will always be unwelcome.
Though well written, this is probably not a book I would read cover-to-cover. However, I plan to keep it handy and turn to it when a specific question arises, grateful someone else has done the hard work of synthesizing all this material in a responsible and accessible way.