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On Skeptics meta, I wrote an answer in which I recommended:

Instead, why not post on Medical Sciences? I was going to say there are 500 posts containing the term “fasting” but many of the results are variants on the adjective “fast”, which is quite annoying.

And can I add, also bewildering? I knew better than to search for “fast“ because it is a verb and an adjective. I feared I would also get results containing “fasten” but searching for the noun form fasting–I thought–would narrow the field and produce reliable positive results. Not so, among the many many false positives were things such as:

  1. Is this an indication that my body metabolizes caffeine faster (or slower?)
  2. …the chemicals decompose faster before they can cause massive change to their environment.
  3. Don't speak fast or act in any way that could frighten the victim.
  4. in what way is losing weight faster than this unhealthy?
  5. Will taking zinc for colds make my colds go away faster?
  6. I'm wondering if our bodies adjust to the constant showering by producing oils faster.
  7. One 1998 study shown that microwaving food can lead to faster breakdown of vitamin B12
  8. Since the body cannot get blood to the highest point (brain) fast enough, it cannot function.

I found only one result on the first page, showing a total of fifteen posts, that contained the actual term fasting.

Three randomized controlled clinical trials of fasting in humans were identified, and the results were published in 5 articles, all of … which evaluated the effects of fasting on surrogate outcomes.

What should I have done? If I had also included the terms "diet" and "healthy“ in the search box that would not have improved the results by all that much, and in the post actually containing the term fasting only the term “healthy” is used.

Shouldn't the term “fasting“ be easy to find on a Stack Exchange site dedicated to health?

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What should I have done?

The "Advanced Search Tips" (link at the top of your search page) say you can use double quotes (") before and after your search terms to look for exact matches. This seems to work.

Another thing you may want to do: Sort the results by Relevance instead of Votes, this seems to at least give most of the posts with the exact match for 'fasting' first.

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  • How silly of me, I've only used quotes for searching a string, a quote, or specific expressions. I did not know that quotes are also used for single words too. Nevertheless, why aren't the results showing "fasting" at the top of the list followed by the other variants? – Mari-Lou A Dec 21 '20 at 12:39
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    @Mari-LouA I just edited in a reason that may have happened: Your search seems to have been ordered by votes, while 'relevance' should give you the closest matches first :) This has a bit more info on that, though it's 9 years old so I don't know if it's still relevant. – Tinkeringbell Dec 21 '20 at 12:43
  • I automatically chose "votes" because I wanted to see the most upvoted posts. I would not have thought over 350 results would be negative (or appear to be, because "fast" is also a verb) – Mari-Lou A Dec 21 '20 at 12:45
  • @Tinkeringbell yes, I'm pretty sure that hasn't changed in the last 9 years. – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask V2 Dec 21 '20 at 12:53

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