Severe Health Cost of Speed Eating Competitions

Nathan's Famous image: commons.wikimedia.org

The American medical fraternity is taking aim at the nation’s growing hunger for speed eating contests.

Health experts point to a study: ‘Competitive Speed Eating: Truth and Consequences’ published in the American Journal of Roentgenology in 2007, to warn competitors not only of the events, but also the training required for them.

Chicago-based psychiatrist and eating-disorder expert Kim Dennis likens speed eating (whether competitive or for training) as a variant of self-harm.

“Putting all of the health risks aside,” said Dennis, “there are certainly some psychological or psychiatric risks with regards to the development of an eating disorder for people who had any sort of genetic predisposition to have one.

“Somebody eating 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes is self-abusing to some extent.”

The health risks alone should be enough to warn anybody away from such a frivolous pursuit: the very real possibility of developing morbid obesity, profound gastroparesis, gastric ruptures, and dangerously low sodium levels; risks of seizures, fainting, vomiting … the list goes on.

The United States is the home of speed eating. Not only do they have their own bona fide organisation (Major League Eating), but they have some real money to be won from the more prestigious competitions.

Professional speed eaters (yes, there are people who make their living doing this) Matt Stonie won US$10,000 for first place in the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest on July 4 this year.
Stonie revealed he binge ate up to 60 hot dogs three times a week to prepare for the event.
He also admitted he (and other competitors) didn’t really know what they were doing when it came to training.

“A lot of us don’t know what we’re doing,” Stonie admitted.

“We’re just experimenting. Sometimes people go a little gung-ho, a little overboard, and hurt themselves.”

Even the organisation behind the speed eating events is concerned at the health risks associated with the sport and tr4aining. “It’s ridiculous,” said George Shea, co-founder of Major League Eating and organiser of the Nathan’s Famous contest. “You don’t need to do it (training) … there’s no arms race to 100 (hot dogs).

But like in any competition people are always after an edge over their rivals. If that edge comes from training (and frequent binge eating) then that’s what they’ll do.

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