Competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi retires amid health concerns: ‘I no longer feel hunger’

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Japanese competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi has announced his retirement in a new Netflix documentary in which the six-time winner of the famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest revealed that he no longer has an appetite. 

Kobayashi, 46, opened up about his health concerns in the film “Hack Your Health: The Secrets of Your Gut.” He estimated that over the course of his 20-year career, he has eaten around 10,000 hot dogs.

Takeru Kobayashi exhausted

Takeru Kobayashi of Japan sits in exhaustion after downing 44 hot dogs at the annual hot dog eating contest at Coney Island July 4, 2003 in New York City. Kobayashi, who set a world record of 50 1/2 hot dogs in last years contest, asily won again this year. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

“I hear people say they’re hungry, and they look very happy after they’ve eaten,” Kobayashi said in the documentary. “I’m jealous of those people because I no longer feel hunger.” 

The informational film follows the lives of four individuals, each of which has their own digestive health issues. Kobayashi talks about his lack of appetite, which his wife revealed has led the competitive eater to go days without having a meal.

“Ever since I started this career, I’ve wondered what damage I’ve done to my body,” he said. 

Takeru Kobayashi after an eating contest

All-time world record holder Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, who ate 50 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes in 2001, breaks his own record in 2002 by eating 50 1/2 hot dogs and buns.  (Mychal Watts/WireImage)


After undergoing a series of tests, Kobayashi is informed that while his gut microbiome appeared to be fine, his brain scans were cause for concern, a wake-up call that eventually led to him walking away from the sport. . 

“I’ve decided to retire from competitive eating. It’s all I’ve done for the last 20 years. I am worried about what my next step will bring, but I am also excited about my future. I have mixed feelings.”

Takeru Kobayashi during a contest

Competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi challeges 2011 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Competition Contestants via satellite at 230 Fifth Avenue on July 4, 2011 in New York City.   (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

While taking a step back, Kobayashi isn’t taking hot dogs off the menu any time soon. 

“Throughout my career, what’s influenced me more than competitive eating is the hot dog. I want to create a healthier hot dog by combining it with healthy Japanese ingredients.”

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