There’s no question that most people find eating contests – or as they’re called in Taiwan, “big stomach contests” – hard to watch. But a few weeks ago, a government watchdog group in Taiwan challenged citizens to take a hard look at what these contests are costing its citizens.
The group, the Control Yuan, issued a statement saying that the competitions were against social justice and fairness because contestants who become ill often use national health insurance resources. They urged government agencies not to sponsor or host eating contests and recommended that contest organizers cover all medical costs instead of calling upon state-funded resources to do so.
As far as the health risks of eating competitions, MSNBC reports that more conclusive research is needed before we can realize the true risks. The report does point to a University of Pennsylvania study in which scientists analyzed the stomachs of top-ranked competitive eaters against normal men with big appetites. The study looked at both categories of men before and after a 12-minute hot dog eating contest. According to Marc Levine, MD, a professor of radiology behind the study, the study revealed, “The stomach [of the competitive eater] adapted by becoming an increasingly compliant sac that could expand to enormous sizes to accommodate the large volume of ingested food.” After one competitive eater engulfed 36 hot dogs in 10 minutes, researchers asked him to stop, as they feared his belly would rupture.
But to many professional competitive eaters and their fans, the rewards outweigh the risks. The Major League Eating and International Federation of Competitive Eating celebrates the top 50 competitors on its homepage. Some standouts: Joey Chestnut, who inhaled 62 hotdogs and buns during the 10-minute annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest this year to win $10,000 in prize money. And Sonya Thomas, the first-ever women’s champion (weighing in at 104 pounds and ranking fourth over all), who swallowed 40 dogs and buns in 10 minutes.
What are your opinions on competitive eating? Should this “sport” be government regulated?