Effects of Competitive Eating

It's the Fourth of July and that means picnics, parades, fireworks... and hot dog eating contests. The most famous eating competition is Nathan's International July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest. In 2007, six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi wasn't able to defend his title and lost out to Joey Chestnut, who hoovered a world record-breaking 66 hot dogs in a mere 12 minutes! He walked away with $10,000, Nathan's Mustard Belt and a year's supply of hot dogs, but let's check out how his digestive system is handling it all...

Hoovering and Your Health

While obesity remains one of the country's biggest health concerns, people are bingeing for sport and eating mass quantities of hot dogs, mini-burgers, pies, chili, chicken wings and even cow brains - typically in 15 minutes or less. Competitive eaters train by eating huge meals, stuffing themselves with cabbage, or drinking lots of water in one sitting in order to stretch out their stomachs. They advise kids not to try it at home since it requires a lot of training. But with 11 million Americans suffering from bulimia and anorexia and 25 million more suffering from binge eating (according to the National Eating Disorders Association), competitive eating only encourages this harmful behavior.

How Much Can a Stomach Handle?

So far, medical studies haven't been able to prove that competitive eating seriously damages your stomach. This may be due to the stomach's resilience and elasticity. However, some doctors argue that repeated stretching can weaken its ability to function properly and may no longer be able to return to its normal size. That means that the food you eat will stay in your stomach longer than normal, causing nausea, vomiting and acid reflux disease. As well, forced or repeated vomiting can tear your esophagus, causing food to leak out as you swallow and result in infections. However, competitive eaters say vomiting is rare. Instead, they say all it takes to relieve the meat sweats after a competition is just a few trips to the bathroom and a good burp.

Did You Know?

  • If you eat 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes, like 2007 champ Joey Chestnut did, you'll consume 19,602 calories. So in one sitting, you'll be eating more than a week's worth of calories, seven times the recommended daily limit for cholesterol, 20 times the daily limit for total fat and two and a half week's worth of sodium. Gross!
  • If you eat 35 bratwursts in 10 minutes, you'll consume about 10,000 calories.
  • If you eat 167 chicken wings in five minutes, you'll consume 15,968 calories. To work that off, you'd have to do 2,043 minutes of exercise. That's like 37 hours, or a day and a half, of running or swimming.

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