Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Chomp, chomp...more...

If last week's CSI piqued your interest in competitive eating, here's a more in-depth look at the sport -- and the people who do it -- than you ever imagined was possible:

"I would love to study them," said gastroenterologist George Triadafilopoulos, a professor of medicine at Stanford University. He said studying competitive eating would help researchers "understand the mechanisms [of swallowing and satiety] and treat people in whom the mechanisms are not working."

Which is not to say they recommend anybody do it. Speed-eating has plenty of unpleasant side effects, among them vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea and painful gas, experts say. Not to mention choking, stomach rupture and esophageal inflammation. Frequent vomiting can splash teeth with stomach acid, eroding enamel. Swallowed bones can injure intestines; inhaled food can get trapped in airways. Then there is the issue of regularly eating far too many calories to maintain a healthy weight.

"These competitions go against everything that we've learned" about healthy eating, said Bonnie Taub-Dix, a dietitian based in Woodmere, N.Y., and a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association.

Arnie Chapman of Oceanside, N.Y., who is head of the Association of Independent Competitive Eaters ( http://www.competitiveeaters.com/ ), one of two main groups that organize and promote speed-eating events in the United States, acknowledges that in his events, well, vomiting happens. But he doesn't see that as a big problem.

"Vomiting is a healthy way [for the body] to say you've gone over your limit," he said.

Don't miss the photo gallery. Especially the one of the guy who goes by the nom de food "Eater X."

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