Schwarcz is a Professor of Chemistry who has written several books about diet and nutrition. Judging by this book I'm thinking he should stick to chemistry.
I'm not saying that Schwarcz's dietary recommendations are bad. After you take away the discussions of chemical terms and processes you end up with the same sort of recommendations you've been hearing about for decades: Eat mostly foods based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and don't overeat. Hey, is there ANY nutrition book out there that recommends eating mostly meat, fat, and sugar, and overeating?
I majored in biology at college, so I thought that a chemistry-focused discussion of nutrition would be interesting. I was wrong. I can't really fault Schwarcz for that, because his book makes it clear that it will get into some chemistry, and many of the chemicals in foods have long, hard to pronounce names. But the subtitle to the book led me to believe that the chemistry discussion would be enlivened by learning about "the myths, misconceptions, and truths about the foods we eat." Again I was wrong, and this time I can fault Schwarcz. Schwarcz ends up recommending the same type of whole-food, unprocessed diet as any mainstream diet book, so I wonder just which myths and misconceptions he thinks he is addressing? He recommends that meat should be "an occasional treat," and even then the portion size "should cover a small portion of the plate." Those people who still believe in the "myth" that humans need to eat lots of meat would sooner barbecue Schwarcz's book than read it. Regarding other myths and misconceptions, Schwarcz is covering old, well-trod ground. I suppose this book might be helpful to someone who has had his head in the nutritional sands for the past two decades.
I can't forgive the chapter on milk. His discussion of calcium and osteoporosis is superficial at best. He doesn't address any of the major risk factors for osteoporosis, nor does he discuss the chemical processes underlying them, nor effective countermeasures. He doesn't offer a single study demonstrating that consuming dairy lowers the incidence of bone fractures, which seems strange considering that this is the dairy industry's number one claim to fame. Schwarcz does point to two studies which contradict his claim that milk is good for bones, but he blatantly dismisses them. One study shows that "Asians have a lower incidence of osteoporosis than Westerners even though they consume less dairy." Schwarcz responds by saying, "True enough, but they also have a very different overall diet and lifestyle." He leaves it at that, and he doesn't bother to say what parts of the "very different diet and lifestyle" are healthier! He then mentions the comprehensive Nurses' Health Study "which found that nurses who drank two or more glasses of milk a day actually broke more bones and had a higher risk of hip fractures." Schwarcz responds by subscribing to a hypothesis that the nurses who drank more milk were the ones who had the weakest bones to begin with! I say hypothesis because he has no evidence for it. To make things worse, Schwarcz goes out of his way to describe anyone who "criticizes" milk consumption as part of the "antimilk lobby," driven more by an irrational agenda than any objective analysis of the evidence. I eat moderate amounts of dairy (for taste, not health), and I'm not part of any antimilk lobby, but does that mean I must believe that dairy foods are good for my bones? Schwarcz says that when we "look at the totality of the evidence, an overwhelming number of studies show that bone strength improves with calcium intake, and dairy products offer the best source of calcium." Schwarcz is linking dairy to calcium to bone strength, which in effect means he is suggesting that dairy is good for bones. But again, he doesn't offer even one study which gives any evidence for this claim, and instead shows us two studies which contradict it. Furthermore, Schwarcz dismisses "antimilk" arguments that no other species except humans drink milk after weaning. He's missing the entire point: the objective and telling observation that all adult animals on earth thrive without milk. Schwarcz would have us believe as scientific gospel that human adults, for special reasons he never explains, need milk to thrive and prevent bone fractures (except, of course, for those Asian human adults, who have very different diets and lifestyles!).
This is the model of clear, rational, scientific thinking we're supposed to follow, as Publishers Weekly says, that "leaves readers with a rational framework for evaluating the complex nature of foods and how they affect health."? I'd say it's a great example of a cloudy, irrational, and incomplete framework. In the end, the best that Schwarcz can do is tell us that milk "is not a poison," as some fringe members of PETA might say.
In conclusion, Schwarcz did not bust any new myths or misconceptions and his recommendations are consistent with mainstream recommendations. You know the drill: Eat mostly veggies, fruits, beans, and whole grains, don't overeat, engage in enjoyable physical activities, get adequate rest. If you do all that don't worry about whatever else you like to eat!