America’s leading hotdog shoveler, Joey Chestnut, beat his own record this year at the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest by swallowing 75 franks in under ten minutes. But at a certain point, there must be a limit to how many hotdogs a human can possibly eat, right?
That’s the question James Smoglia set out to answer in a new study. Smoglia, a physiology professor at High Point University, is fascinated by the limits of human performance. Previously, he’s looked into how fast humans can possibly run and how far humans can possibly travel on foot. Now, he’s examined just how many hotdogs a person can eat in a ten minute period.
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Smoglia’s research team looked at 39 years of data from the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest, the nation’s foremost competitive eating event. Using mathematical modeling, researchers determined that the limit of human potential is 84 hotdogs. Joey Chestnut wasn’t far off.
Of course, Smoglia’s conclusion is at best an educated guess. After all, there is not a huge wealth of data on competitive eating. But Smoglia also cites that the physiology of a competitive eater is different from the physiology of an everyday human.
“The ordinary person would probably run into a stomach capacity issue,” Smoliga told CNN. “But competitive eaters specifically train to expand their stomachs, so for top competitive eaters, it’s probably more the chewing and eating within a time frame that limits it.”
Naturally, Smoglia’s research estimates how many hotdogs a competitive eater could hold in their stomach. It doesn’t necessarily predict how many dogs the human body is able to digest.
“What we do know,” he said, “is obese individuals and individuals with binge eating disorders have similar types of physiology: They can have more food in the stomach, which can disrupt mental feelings of fullness.” This is to say, people who specifically train to be competitive hotdog hoovers can trick their brain out of feeling full, even if their body is at capacity. That means that a person could swallow 84 hotdogs, but might have some serious gastrointestinal issues very soon after.