The great American pastime of competitive eating is not for weak stomached. In a medical case study from 2017, doctors in Singapore report how a 30-year-old man was hospitalized after chomping down a 3.2 kilogram (7-pound) burger in 30 minutes at a competitive eating event.
The doctors explain how the man came to the hospital after feeling ill and throwing up. An initial examination showed he had a “tense and distended abdomen” and a blood test revealed his body was under considerable stress.
Concerned by his condition, the patient was given a CT scan (image below) which revealed a large mass of food clogging up his stomach and small intestine. Worse of all, this severely engorged digestive tract was squashing his organs, leading to acute pancreatitis and acute kidney injury.
The man was given a stomach pump, but his symptoms failed to go away. Just as the doctors were preparing to carry out even more medical interventions, relief finally came: he passed wind and eventually managed to poop, resolving his conditions.
“Plans for an open gastrostomy to evacuate the undigested food particles were abandoned when the patient started to pass flatus and there was resolution of metabolic acidosis and elevated white counts”, reads the case study.
“Eventually, the patient managed to move his bowels and was discharged well 5 days later”, it concludes.
This patient was pretty lucky to leave the hospital relatively unscathed. There are a bunch of examples where people have died at competitive eating competitions, primarily by choking. In one such instance, a 32-year-old in Florida choked to death while competitively eating live roaches and worms.
In 2020, researchers wrote a study that looked at how many hot dogs is it possible to eat in 10 minutes by analyzing 39 years of data from the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in the US. At the moment the record is held by Joey Chestnut, who ate 75 hot dogs in the 2020 contest. However, the research indicates that it is theoretically possible to devour 84 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
Judging by the case study above though, we wouldn’t want to test that theory.