The tour suggests that questions regarding

Environmental or nutritional factors that affect health

are now suited to HS now. Given that most of the unanswered questions before were about nutrition and diet, what sort of questions were people considering that would be on topic? I'm asking because on cooking meta someone suggested here to answer a question about the health effects of eating mooncakes.

I note also that nutrition, diet etc remains a very controversial topic because a lot of the data is based on epidemiological data, or short-term ( only a few years ) interventional data.

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    I think we should rule out all nutrition and diet related questions. Part of my reasoning can be found in comments below this answer. I will probably write an answer when I have time, but I’m not sure when that point in time will be... – Narusan Nov 12 '18 at 22:10
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    I agree with @Narusan. Virtually every nutrition question I can recall seeing has had very little relevance to medical science and would have been a better fit on cooking, biology or fitness. – Carey Gregory Nov 12 '18 at 22:17
  • @CareyGregory - Nutrition questions on fitness are also off topic on cooking unless it relates to the preparation only, off topic on fitness unless it is specifically in the context of a fitness program (No stand alone questions), and biology only as it relates to the biological processes involved. Nutrition proposals have also failed several times on Area 51. There is so much unknown about fitness and it is nebulous enough of a topic nobody really wants to touch it. I would vote as being off topic here as well unless it factors into specific conditions. – JohnP Nov 13 '18 at 0:06
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    Also realize that we as a mod group have not yet updated the tour/help pages with the new scope related material. – JohnP Nov 13 '18 at 0:07
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    @JohnP Yeah, I was aware of the other sites' restrictions on nutrition questions. My point was simply that they really don't fit here at all under the new scope (and barely did under the old scope). – Carey Gregory Nov 13 '18 at 1:18
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    I have been looking over the tour and help pages. I updated one the other day that still referenced Health.SE, but the more important stuff still needs to be addressed. – Carey Gregory Nov 13 '18 at 1:20
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    So, can the mods remove the help text about nutrition in medicalsciences.stackexchange.com/tour being on topic please! :) – Graham Chiu Nov 13 '18 at 5:24
  • @GrahamChiu Done. – Carey Gregory Nov 29 '18 at 0:48

I agree with the comments that almost every nutrition question asked here should not be accepted here (and most are quickly closed). However, for the sake of argument, I can think of a few situations (not all-inclusive) that probably should be on-topic.

  • Questions involving nutritional deficiencies that cause disease
  • Questions involving epidemiology/population health as associated with nutrition
  • Scientific questions (i.e., not medical advice) involving nutritional/environmental management of disease

However, I also feel like these points all fit under at least one of the other on-topic bullet points. I can't think of an on-topic type of question that would fit under Environmental or nutritional factors that affect health but not one of the others.

  • As a defender of nutrition more generally this might be in vain: since this is currently quite upvoted: We need more precision for a guideline. Can you give more, concrete examples for this? Counter-examples? (Excluding nutrition seems counter intuitive, to sya the least; however, if it's necessary…) – LаngLаngС Nov 19 '18 at 20:00
  • @LangLangC I'm a bit hesitant to add examples after the post has been around for a bit because it might change peoples' interpretation without their input, but in saying "almost every nutrition question asked here (recently)" should not be accepted, I have in mind mainly the flood of "is it healthy/healthier if" questions we often get about nutrition. – Bryan Krause Nov 19 '18 at 21:53

My 2 cents: as much as I love nutrition as a topic, I don't think our community can handle fielding nutrition topics without a MUCH larger expert base, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

I have a relatively large amount of lifestyle medicine training and clinical experience, but still feel an aversion to answering 99% of the nutrition questions that pop up here. I have put some thought into why that is, and think there are several themes:

  • Many questions have no evidence-based answers because they are too limited in scope to have ever been studied. In person I could discuss speculative risks-benefits based on what is known, but this site isn't well-suited to that at all. Speculation just doesn't fit here.

  • I can't cite the specific reference for all nutrition advice that I use in clinical practice off the top of my head. It's a synthesis of years of study, practice, watching clinical results, and learning from mentors. It would be one thing if it were a simple fact or clinical guideline, but nutrition is far more complex because there isn't a central set of professional standards - it's a synthesis of MANY sources, so it can be extremely time consuming and difficult to retrace those steps. For example, 1/3 of the pages of the lifestyle medicine book "How Not to Die" is just a list of reference sources. Some docs I know can do that but my brain doesn't have that kind of bibliography section. :)

  • I'm eternally learning, and there's a lot more I still need to know to be able to stand in a debate on nutrition against the waves of pseudomedicine in the supplement world. Some is legit, some is straight-up harmful. But scouring references for evidence to pick apart hype from solid is tedious work, and we just don't have that kind of manpower.

  • There is a lot that remains controversial even within the medical field on nutrition. People debate the clinical application of studies all the time - even those who have the same fundamental philosophy on nutrition debate the fine points of it. The ACLM has only recently put together a standardized curriculum, and that took them a great deal of discussion to decide what to include and what not to.

We have no obligation to be a comprehensive encyclopedia of all health topics. And we need to accept that some people WILL get upset about the fact that there's not a good place to ask their question, but we can't solve the entire worldwide shortage of health information dissemination on our own. We just don't (and won't) have the capacity to field everything out there. So being selective is a survival mechanism. Eliminating nutrition will reduce the controversial questions that no one feels like touching with a 10-foot pole, and that will reduce the burnout of the experts who we're trying to retain.

It may help to specify in the guidelines that a question has to be answerable with evidence-based information, and if a topic is too controversial to have a clear clinical consensus, it might be closed as off topic.

  • Bullet2 is the main obstacle here. (4 the fundamental one nonetheless). I'd say that giving out the refs should be enough. But in thta area, is looks like only echo chambers exist? – LаngLаngС Nov 19 '18 at 20:02
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    @LangLangC I wouldn't say only echo chambers exist. But I would say that people tend to build echo chambers, and nutrition is an area where it seems to happen a lot. The problem with references is that it takes skill (and time) to assess strengths and weaknesses of a resource, especially studies. – DoctorWhom Nov 19 '18 at 22:17
  • As someone who came to this site under advice to ask nutrition based questions here, I can certainly say that having multiple nutrition tags is misleading if questions pertaining to just nutrition can be considered off topic. Furthermore a larger nutrition expert base will never be achieved here if nutrition only questions are dissuaded. Having unanswered nutrition questions will eventually attract people who wish to answer them. Not having any will not. The expert base will never grow or develop if questions on the topic are not asked in the first place. – Aesir Nov 21 '18 at 4:29
  • @Aesir I do agree that we need to remove the tags if we're not going to include nutrition. That's why we're having this discussion, to determine how to make alterations to the site to reflect our scope. I also appreciate your thoughts, but the reality is that we have had scores of unanswered (or wrongly-answered) nutrition questions on here for the several YEARS that it's been in beta and STILL have not attracted sufficient experts in the subject to manage the sheer # of nutrition questions. It's just not sustainable. – DoctorWhom Nov 21 '18 at 4:34
  • This site is not like Overflow, where there are thousands of active experts, and wrong coding advice gets corrected in a hurry. There are too few experts here. And in health, if incorrect information is passed off as correct information, people can get hurt. We don't have the manpower to field nutrition questions as it is. They are often extremely difficult to answer, for the reasons above, as well as that often the questions are built on misinformed/misunderstood premises that would have to be corrected as well in order to even answer the question. – DoctorWhom Nov 21 '18 at 4:36
  • But this is a problem that presents itself in the field of nutrition as whole, as you yourself have stated. The field is full of misinformation and it is overwhelming when trying to find sufficient trustworthy information to make informed decisions. Nutrition good or bad has a direct impact on a persons medical measurable health and is related to an increased risk of disease and how the body functions. In my opinion it is a big oversight to just ignore the field because there isn't a big enough base. I understand the community is smaller than over exchange sites. – Aesir Nov 21 '18 at 4:39
  • , but this shouldn't be seen as a limitation. This site has people, like you which could offer an insight into a topic. A good answer doesn't always have to be backed up with 1000 sources and an extensive medical trial. But if you as an individual have significant personal experience and can provide some insight into why never eating vegetables might have a correlation with zinc related deficiencies in the body then that question can be answered (for example). For a nutrition based question I came here to benefit from personal insight and experience of individuals not a study. – Aesir Nov 21 '18 at 4:42
  • I agree with you that it's a problem. But it's not a problem we have the manpower to solve on our own. Read my second-to-last paragraph again. We wish we had the manpower for it, but we don't. And we don't want to become a repository of incorrect misleading information, either. We would rather not allow nutrition than to be a site where nutrition misinformation propagates. – DoctorWhom Nov 21 '18 at 4:42
  • That's where there's a fundamental difference in your understanding of the way that StackExchange and the medical field work. Insight and experience are insufficient. Clinical practice is evidence-based, not based on anecdotal experience and supposition. Evidence is required for a reason. Studies exist for a reason. Incorrect health information can lead to harm. That is why reliable references are required. – DoctorWhom Nov 21 '18 at 4:44
  • I understand your point of view and as someone who is not responsible for moderating the site I can't comment to the increased workload allowing nutrition to continue would have. All I can say is that I am of the opinion ignoring a topic which has an unarguable link to medical health (however misunderstood) is a wrong course of action and will only serve to damage the potential growth of the community. Again I can only say this as a new user however who came here to gain a better understanding of predominantly nutrition based topics, so I am biased. – Aesir Nov 21 '18 at 4:47
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Aesir Nov 21 '18 at 4:49

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