I did a search of the meta posts and I couldn't find anything on this. In fact, what I found suggests that questions about things related to medicine or medical procedures are ok, as long as they ask how they work rather than asking for a prescription/diagnosis/medical treatment or something like that.

Just curious because I noticed this post closed because it was a medical question, but it struck me as odd because the OP is looking for biological research, not medical treatment.

Just curious what the policy is. :)

  • $\begingroup$ Those reading this question may be interested in the Area 51 Proposal for Health.SE $\endgroup$ – Rory M Mar 24 '12 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Rory M: This proposal has been deleted. $\endgroup$ – Zach Lysobey Dec 14 '12 at 17:10

I actually thought that question was a bit vague, but on topic. I've voted to reopen. It wasn't asking for a diagnosis, but an expert review of the literature. That's exactly the kind of thing the community here should be able to do.

Generally questions here are either about specific problems with research, or requests for expert opinion based on the scientific literature which is inaccessible to many people. We shouldn't allow medical advice of any sort, but we should allow biological questions about medical problems.

  • $\begingroup$ I think it is the personal nature of the question that is concerning, if it were to be more along the lines of how does it cause hyperactivity then I'd happily support a re-open $\endgroup$ – Rory M Feb 8 '12 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ I'm also in favour of editing the question to make it clearly on the biological side of the line. We should really have something in the FAQ about what is an acceptable question, defining the difference between medical and biological questions, and giving examples. $\endgroup$ – Rik Smith-Unna Feb 8 '12 at 12:11

We have plenty of questions tagged with that have close relations to medicine: question about scar color, about effects of antibiotics intake etc. And as long as the question is about biological background of some medical facts -- it is perfectly on-topic and is answered duly.

The question you mean is something different. Unlike the examples above, where the main purpose of the question was (in my opinion) to get biological explanation for some medical facts, answering this question might be treated as prognosis for an existing health condition and/or can influence the decision about possible medical treatment (not necessarily by the person who asked this question, but rather by many others who might find it by mere searching). To me this clearly falls into the category "medical advice". And I don't want to jeopardize SE project with some law suit because of this.

I do understand that this might disappoint some people who are looking for a broader scientific review on some issue from medical biology, but the person provides two links to scientific medical publications in his answer -- this implies that he is capable of searching for this information on his own.

Sincerely speaking, I would even accept the question as an on-topic one if it were formulated a little less personally and more scientifically, something like: "Effects of sodium benzoate on animal or human fetuses?". This would allow answering this question from purely biological viewpoint without the danger that it looks like a medical advice (again, at least in search engine output) and provides enough information for the person who asks.


This specific question is pretty much about personal medical advice, which really shouldn't be given by random people via the internet. But even if it was formulated a bit different, removing any indication that it could be used as medical advice, I'd still argue that it should be off-topic here.

Question about the biological mechanisms behind medical subjects are perfectly fine on this site. Medical questions should be about understanding the underlying biology. But I'd draw the line at questions that are purely about health or medicine. So the following questions would be off-topic:

  • Does substance X cause Y in humans?
  • Is X bad for your health?

While the following would be on-topic:

  • X is known to cause Y in rats by inhbiting pathway Z, does it work the same way in humans?
  • X is correlated with health effect Y, what is the biological mechanism responsible for that?

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