Bizarre fast food fetish an online hit
A FREAKY trend that has taken YouTube by storm involves bingeing on huge volumes of food in front of total strangers.
Known as mukbang videos, the viral clips show young women and men scoffing enormous meals in front of hoards of people online.
According to The Sun, some make millions from their channels and are regularly branded a "sexy turn on" by their fans.
Originating in South Korea, mukbang (pronounced "mook-bong") involves watching people binge eat via a YouTube live stream.
The phrase comes from combining the Korean words for eating (muok-da) and broadcast (bang song).
Mukbang stars - some of whom make $13,000 per month - will sometimes spend hours ploughing through 4,000 calories' worth of food.
Dishes range from spicy ramen to cereal, buffalo wings to McDonald's and a host of Korean dishes.
But the trend has now spread further than the Asian peninsula, with a growing fanbase in Britain and the United States.
Viewers say the weird clips helps relieve stress.
"I prefer the seafood, crab and ramen videos," American mukbang fan Sammy Bosch told Today.
"While watching others eat rich food you can fantasise that you are eating it. For me, I associate food with pleasure. So, watching these videos makes me feel happy."
And it's great for fame-hungry "mukbangers", too.
Earning money from fan donations, adverts that play before videos and corporate sponsors, some have built vast media empires around their odd hobby.
Christi Caston, a mukbanger from Texas, posts to the channel YummyBitesTV.
Caston says she makes twice as much cash as she did working a nine to five job.
"I mukbang every day, and I make a comfortable living from it," she told Today.
But gorging on thousands of calories in one sitting can take its toll on mukbanging's biggest names.
Nicholas Perry, 26, has confessed he suffers from severe cramps and sexual dysfunction.
"Most people, when they think about it, are not willing to destroy their bodies for money," Perry, who runs the channel Nikocado Avocado, told Men's Health.
"I started having erection problems," Perry admits. "It never happened until I started doing mukbangs.
"I can't fall asleep because I feel like my digestive tract is on fire, and then I'm running to the bathroom. I'm sitting on the toilet crying."
But despite the problems, Perry said he never sees himself quitting YouTube.
Instead, the YouTube mogul says he might document a weight loss journey once the mukbanging gets too much.
This story first appeared in The Sun and is republished with permission.