How Did He Eat All That?


The first Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan's Restaurant on Coney Island was held in nineteen sixteen. Today, it's a huge event broadcast on ESPN to one million viewers. That's how big competitive eating has become. I mean, I like hot dogs. But 74 hot dogs WITH buns in ten minutes?? No way. The question is: are these speed eaters hurting themselves?

One recent study asked this question and used fluoroscopy to see what was happening to the stomach as a speed eater ate hotdogs. It takes continuous X-Ray beams to create moving images of a structure in the body. The test also included a control subject who was physically larger than the competitive eater.

oth were then asked to eat as many hotdogs without buns as they could for twelve minutes. The control stopped at seven hotdogs complaining he couldn't eat another. Fluoroscopy showed pieces of hot dog in the stomach and his abdomen looked flat. In contrast, even while empty, X-Rays of the speed eater's stomach showed it was a bit larger than normal. After ten minutes, he had eaten thirty six hotdogs and his stomach had stretched to fill the upper abdomen. He looked like a pregnant woman but didn't feel full or uncomfortable.

After two hours, only a quarter of the food in his stomach had emptied into the intestines compared with three quarters for the control eater. So, the study helps us see what's happening to a speed eater's stomach but the long term effects are still unknown.

What are the risks of a chronically dilated and flaccid stomach? Could it eventually fail to empty which would cause nausea and vomiting and possibly require surgery? You have to wonder if the risks are worth the rewards.

More Information

Competitive Speed Eating: Truth and Consequences
Our observations suggest that successful speed eaters expand the stomach to form an enormous flaccid sac capable of accommodating huge amounts of food. We speculate that professional speed eaters eventually may develop morbid obesity, profound gastroparesis, intractable nausea and vomiting, and even the need for a gastrectomy. Despite its growing popularity, competitive speed eating is a potentially self-destructive form of behavior...

This is what happens to the bodies of competitive eaters
The world-renowned Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Competition is held every Fourth of July at Coney Island. Last year, Joey Chestnut set a new record by downing 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes. However, according a 2007 study published in The Journal of Roentgenology, eating competitions can be damaging to the human body. This study compared the body of Tim Janus, a competitive speed eating champion who could consume 36 hot dogs in 10 minutes, to a non-competitive eater with a healthy appetite...