Nathans_hotdog_contest_countdown_clock By Kcpwiki - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Why professional hot dog eaters simply don't cut the mustard

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Peer-reviewed: This work was reviewed and scrutinised by relevant independent experts.

Simulation/modelling: This type of study uses a computer simulation or mathematical model to predict an outcome. The original values put into the model may have come from real-world measurements (eg: past spread of a disease used to model its future spread).

The absolute limits of human hot dog eating have been explored by a US scientist, and his findings suggest professional hot dog eaters really need to ketchup. He analysed 39 years of data from the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in the USA (where else?) and developed a computer model that suggests highly-trained 'elite' eaters are theoretically capable of scarfing down 832g of delicious, suspicious hot dog 'matter' in just 10 minutes, the equivalent of 84 hot dogs. The current record, held by one Joey Chestnut, is a trifling 74 hot dogs with buns, or around 21,000 calories. It's probably best not to think too hard about the effects the morning after, but elite eaters probably don't have normal, healthy gastrointestinal function, the researcher says. Meanwhile, mere mortals such as ourselves probably couldn't get through more than 10 hotdogs in 10 minutes, he adds. How do you like them onions?

Journal/conference: Biology Letters

DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2020.0096

Organisation/s: High Point University, USA

Funder: No external funding.

Media release

From: The Royal Society

Hot dogs dinner - Competitive eaters may have come within 10 hotdogs of the limits of human performance. This study, using 39 years of data from Nathan’s Famous Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest calculates 84 hotdogs would be the maximum any human can consume in 10 minutes. The world record stands at 74 (21,000 calories) but the average eater would struggle to manage 10.

Modelling the maximal active consumption rate and its plasticity in humans – perspectives from hot dog eating competitions

Just how much can a human being eat? Scientific analysis of 39 years of data from the annual Nathan's Famous Coney Island Hot Dog Eating contest reveals that it is unlikely that anybody can ever eat more than 84 hot dogs in 10 minutes. The current record is 74 hot dogs with buns - equivalent to more than 21,000 calories. Elite eaters train to reach these stunning feats, which likely alter normal, healthy gastrointestinal function. The average person is unlikely to be able to eat more than 10 during this same time period. 

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