Here's Why Takeru Kobayashi Retired From Competitive Eating

Takeru Kobayashi slightly smiling
Takeru Kobayashi slightly smiling - Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

If you're a casual fan of competitive eating contests who tunes in once a year to watch the Fourth of July Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, it might seem like these are all fun and games. For serious competitors, though, they're actually pretty lucrative. Takeru Kobayashi, who won the contest sponsored by Nathan's Famous each year between 2001 and 2006, reportedly earned up to $650,000 annually over the course of over two decades in the eating business. Still, all good gigs must come to an end, and as he revealed in a Netflix documentary, "Hack Your Health: The Secrets of Your Gut," concerns about his health have caused him to renounce all future eating competitions.

Over the course of Kobayashi's career, he's eaten a lot more than hot dogs: Major League Eating lists him as the current record holder for rice balls (20 pounds in ½ hour), lobster rolls (41 in 10 minutes), and cow brains (17.7 pounds in 15 minutes). He didn't always come out on top, either -- he hasn't won at Coney Island since Joey Chestnut first captured his Mustard Yellow Belt in 2007 and he also once lost a hot dog eating contest to a Kodiak bear. While neither a younger, hungrier competitor (the 46-year-old Kobayashi has five years on Chestnut) nor a 1000+-pound predator were able to take the champion out of the game, ultimately he faced sabotage from within as his own stomach and brain conspired to make him lose interest in food.

Read more: What The Cameras Don't Show You On MasterChef

Kobayashi's Eating Feats Have Led To A Number Of Health Issues

Takeru Kobayashi eating chicken wings
Takeru Kobayashi eating chicken wings - Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Takeru Kobayashi isn't the only competitive eater to be harmed on the job. An earlier-gen competitive eater named Mort Hurst once broke a tooth on pistachio nuts and another time suffered a stroke after eating eggs. Tragically, there have also been cases where people choked to death during eating contests. Kobayashi rigorously trained for his eating contests to make sure he was as prepared as possible, and yet he, too, has experienced health issues as a competitive. The first time he lost the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, he was dealing with an arthritic jaw. He's also had difficulty breathing due to his stomach expanding and crowding out his lungs.

What has Kobayashi ready to hang up his bib, though, is the fact that he no longer has any appetite and the thought of food can actually make him nauseous. He also says that his sense of smell has been affected. At one point, he was unable to eat at all for a few days. Right now, he's working to repair the damage done to his brain and body by his years of competitive eating, trying to reset his appetite by consuming small amounts of nutritious foods instead of the over-processed ones he consumed during his career. Professionally, though, he still has one more contribution he wants to make to the food world as he's currently working on developing a healthy, Japanese-style hot dog.

Read the original article on Mashed