I just wrote an answer to the question What are the natural and healthy ways to increase blood sugar?. I am not a health care professional, and most of my knowledge on the matter comes from popular science sources, not peer reviewed publications.

The problem is that carbohydrate metabolism is a contentious topic, which seems to divide the medical community too. So the sources I have read have been written by proponents of one of two warring sides of a debate.

I trust them enough to get the basic, observable facts right, and I have recounted those facts in my answer. For example, as far as I am aware, nobody disputes that eating glucose is followed by a spike in blood sugar levels, which is followed by a spike in insulin levels.

The OP also asks the question starting from the assumption that eating sugar or glucose is unhealthy. So I explained the mechanism behind the "sugar is unhealthy" hypothesis, of course from the point of view of the anti-carb side. I did not even claim that it is certainly so, although I tend to personally agree with the hypothesis.

For both, I could have given some books as sources, the ones where I have read this information. But the problem is that these books make much stronger claims beside these - and I don't believe that their arguments are good enough for those stronger claims. Linking blood sugar spikes to insulin disregulation and obesity is one thing, suggesting that it could be the secret behind Alzheimer is another. But the books I have read do both. This is why I am wary of making broadly visible advertising for them, such as linking them in a SE question. The authors I'd be most likely to cite are Gary Taubes and Robert Lustig, they are the least questionable ones I know in this area. (Although I'd have to revisit Lustig, I'm not sure if he has something good on glucose or if he's only about fructose).

I guess that with additional research effort, I could find a more limited source. But it is hard to convince myself to put even more effort in after all the time it took to write the answer (I had to delete more text than what is left). Also, I don't know if I have the chance of finding a neutral source on a topic which causes such hot dispute.

What would be the best course in this case? Using sources which I think are reliable for what I cited but at the same time spread gospel I don't agree with? Using Wikipedia because hey, it's easy and better than nothing? Hoping that somebody else will help me find sources (maybe add a comment asking for help with that?) Go searching primary sources which will be likely to be hard to get for most users anyway (some expensive physiology textbook, I guess) and possibly only cover half of my answer?

I would ultimately invest the time in finding and citing new sources if you agree that this is best, but I think that not every user here will be willing to do that in a comparable situation. So I'd like to also hear thoughts on what we'll suggest to other users in a similar case if they are less invested in the network and less willing to spend time researching.

2 Answers 2


One can only do so much! Your willingness to ask about your answers or your sources already puts you ahead in this area.

I personally have a hard time using any source wherein I've seen a falsehood touted as truth. Having said that, if that source has a good explanation I believe is supported independently, it seems fine to use the explanation; still, the source may not be quite credible.

There is a learning curve associated with every new subject. When I started on EL&U, I knew almost nothing about the English language, though I am a native speaker. In time, one picks up the good sources from good answers, or from meta posts.

Asking for other users to add sources is also a good option (imo). I am usually more than happy to help with a decent reference (if I can find one, and I agree with you.)

I hope others with more wisdom will post their opinions.


You should never post an answer unless you're 100% confident it's accurate nor should you rely on sources you don't trust. Never post an answer just for the sake of posting an answer. Frankly, I'd argue that if you don't know about the subject material to determine if the sources your referencing are correct that you shouldn't be posting answers on this site at all.

Health.SE isn't like other SE sites, where bad advice could lead to someone losing a video game or breaking a server (which would be pretty horrible, actually), giving poor advice on Health could lead to people experiencing health issues, like death.

Seriously, this site is an accident waiting to happen, but we should take all the steps we can to at least prevent that accident from happening for as long as possible, and part of doing that is not posting answers if you're not qualified to determine their accuracy.

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    I think you misunderstood my situation. I am as confident in this answer as I can be. But let's say my source makes three claims, A, B and C. I am 100% sure that A is true, I know B to be a hypothesis common in the community but not yet proven or disproven by anybody, and C is a wild conjecture. In my answer, I insist that A is true, explain what the consequences of B would be if it is true (while stating that it is controversial), and don't even mention C. But I'm hesitant to name the source in the answer in case people would think that I am endorsing its attitude of "A, B and C are true".
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 12:31
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    This is far from the only site on the network where following bad advice could have deadly consequences. DIY, lifehacks, engineering, chemistry, parenting... heck, even sites like money and travel should be used "at your own (very serious) risk"
    – Air
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 23:12
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    @rumtscho I think your comment deserves to have a place in your question. Maybe the tldr part?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 11:39

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