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The French Paradox and Drinking for Health.

A review copy of Gene Ford's The French Paradox & Drinking for Health was mailed to our offices some time ago, but unfortunately went astray somewhere enroute. Although it would have been tempting to blame the U.S. Postal Service, the culprits proved to be much closer to home.

As it turned out, members of the office staff had intercepted it, and were reading it as they passed it hand to hand. By the time we got hold of it, the book had been through accounting, and was making its way into the production department.

In this case, the enthusiasm of the staff is understandable. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a glass of wine or a bottle of beer will find a wealth of fascinating information in The French Paradox & Drinking for Health. Most important, the book provides readers with a valuable counterpoint to the negative messages about alcohol that permeate our society.

The French Paradox & Drinking for Health (an updated version of an earlier text) begins by taking note of these negative messages, which, as it happens, are often promulgated by agencies of the federal government.

As Ford observes, the Reagan and Bush administrations forged the link between alcohol and dangerous narcotics, a linkage legitimized by the support of Surgeon Generals and Health & Human Services bureaucrats alike. During this period, as Ford observes, "The 'Just Say No' philosophy emerged to dominate federal policy making...|and~ negative presumptions became the determining factors in the distribution of federal research and project funding."

The result, Ford says: "HHS publications...loaded with anti-drinking propaganda and frightening estimates of the costs of alcohol abuse."

Intriguingly, Ford mentions the Task Force on Responsible Decisions About Alcohol, a study undertaken by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) in the 70s. Ford says this study was "the only comprehensive, broad-based study ever conducted about drinking in our nation," and the task force settled on a philosophy that advocated responsible drinking.

Although Jimmy Carter adopted the ECS report as the policy of his administration, Ford says the findings were buried at HHS. "Had Carter been elected to a second term," Ford speculates, "it's possible the neoprohibitionism would not dominate government policy today."

Ford goes on to make a strong case for the health benefits of moderate consumption of alcohol, citing numerous medical studies to bolster the argument.

Several chapters deal with specific beneficial effects that can be attributed to moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages. Among them: reduced potential for heart disease; reduction of stress and therapeutic benefits for the aged.

Ford also provides guidelines for following a moderate drinking program, noting that "drinking should involve the same prudent constraints that a person applies to coffee, chocolate or tea intake."

Ford propounds a "moderate middle way," for society, in which the deceptive linkage between drugs and alcohol will be eliminated; the ECS recommendations of the '70s adopted, and "cooperation |renewed~ between government, industry and private groups to reduce alcohol abuse and drunken driving."

Unfortunately, federal agencies have been heading in a more prohibitionist direction. As Ford points out, it will be up to moderate drinkers to stem this trend, and press for a more measured government alcohol policy.

For those who will campaign to that end, Ford's French Paradox & Drinking for Health will be the field manual of choice.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 19, 1993
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