Speed-eaters’ secret: keeping food in top half of the stomach

    Defending champ Joey “Jaws” Chestnut took the title again in today’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. Ever wonder how champion speed eaters do their thing? Gastroenterologist David Metz found the answer.

    Metz and his team X-rayed the stomach of a champion speed eater for 10 minutes as he scarfed down 36 hot dogs.

    “Think of the speed eater like the predator on the savannah, a big male lion who’s lying on his back after he’s eaten a whole zebra. He doesn’t eat that often, so when he does, he eats as much as he can and stretches out that stomach without feeling all swollen and distended and nauseated,” said Metz, a professor of Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

    Most of us would probably vomit after seven or eight frankfurters but eating champs seem to have an uncanny ability to store food in the top-half of the stomach without getting bothered by that “stuffed” feeling.

    In the study, researchers learned a champion’s backlogged food can sit in the belly for days while the bottom half of the stomach works to grind it into a paste that the body can absorb.

    Before the research began, the scientists wondered if speeder eaters cope by moving big clumps of undigested food down the gut canal to the lower intestines.

    In everyday eaters that condition usually results in something called “dumping syndrome” which can cause cramps, nausea and diarrhea.

    “We proved with the study that doesn’t occur,” Metz said.

    He says the findings on speed eaters might someday help people with gut pain that’s not caused by an ulcer. The blanket term for the condition is “functional dyspepsia.”

    Metz said that non-specific gripe is also dubbed: “indigestion or agita or ‘I don’t know why but I get pain every time I eat.’ That’s a very common complaint to gastroenterologists.”

    Doctors wonder if queasy eaters might learn from speed eaters and somehow train themselves to tolerate food a little better.

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