What Competitive Eaters Are Really Doing To Their Bodies

It comes as no surprise that competitive eater and 16-time winner Joey Chestnut won this year's July 4th Nathan’s Hot Dog Competition held in Coney Island, consuming 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes. That’s the equivalent of 20,000 calories and up to 4 times the entire daily sodium and fat recommendations for an adult. While the true health effects of competitive eating aren’t well known, studies do show that wolfing down dozens of hot dogs in one go stretches the stomach by up to quadruple its normal size, turning it into a massively distended food-filled sac that occupies most of the upper abdomen. Experts warn that over time this could cause the body to stop emptying solid food, leaving competitive eaters with intractable nausea and vomiting. Competitive eaters spend months stretching their stomachs using dangerous techniques like “water loading” or downing gallons of milk and eating mountains of cabbage and fibrous foods. Competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi, who won the contest in 2001 by eating 50 hot dogs, admitted that he developed health issues from competitive eating, explaining that when his stomach became very full, the organs in his body began to shift, which caused problems. “For example, my lungs get shifted up and they can’t expand, so I become very short of breath.” Kobayashi also said he wound up with a painful and arthritic jaw, which caused him to stop competitive eating altogether. So, while there's a lot of money to be won in the competitive eating industry, competitors have to ask themselves if it's worth the risk.