By Taniya Dutta
A 16-month-old girl has ballooned to a staggering 55lbs because of an extremely rare condition that keeps her perpetually hungry.
Chahat Kumar is twice the weight of kids her age.
The toddler cannot even stand on her own and has to drag herself on the floor because the heavy weight puts pressure on her tiny legs.
Chahat suffers from Leptin Deficiency Disease, a rare genetic condition that restricts signalling that triggers feeling of satiety to the brain.
As a result, the affected children tend to have excessive hunger and gain weight.
Chahat once ate like a ten-year-old but now has been put on a strict diet of one chapati and lentil soup three times a day in a desperate attempt by her parents to stop her fro growing bigger.
Doctors in India have found that Chahat is only one of the 51 cases worldwide to have been suffering from Early Onset of Obesity because of the leptin gene deficiency.
In a recent report written for Journal of Clinical Research in Paediatric Endocrinology, Dr Devi Dayal, Paediatrician at PGIMER who also looked into the toddler’s case, stated that “Chahat has been detected to have a novel mutation in the Leptin gene.
“This is the only second case from India with LEP gene mutation in the published literature.”
Chahat was born to Suraj Kumar, 24, a daily wage labour and his wife Reena, 22, through normal delivery.
The only child of the non-obese couple from Amristar in Punjab in northern India, Chahat was born barely 6.6 lbs but started ballooning four months after birth.
Her poverty-stricken parents realised she had an increased appetite at about two months of age when she would demand feeds every half an hour.
To satiate her constant hunger, Reena gave little Chahat huge portions of meal including chapatis and vegetable curries meant for a ten-year-old.
Suraj said: “She is so fat that cannot even stand for more than 20 seconds.
“We cannot take her anywhere. Her mother has to be home always. Whether it is a family function or a big occasion, we cannot together.
“It is impossible to walk with her even for a few meters. We have to borrow a motorcycle to take her to hospitals.”
The couple, who lost their first child- a baby boy at childbirth, are now expecting their third child but are worried about the child’s future.
Suraj said: “Chahat was a normal child when she was born but soon she started gaining weight. At first we thought she is just a healthy child.
“However, she rapidly gain weighed and by the time she was six months old, she weighed a shocking 33 pounds.
“She was bigger than children older to her.
“This is when the alarm bells rang. We took her to several local doctors who couldn’t understand why she was fat. Although they all concluded she was unusual.”
After the family’s anguish made it in local press, the state government came forward and offered free medical treatment at the premier Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh in Punjab.
Chahat had been getting treatment from the hospital since nine months old but due to lack of hormone therapy medicine in India, the doctors are unable to treat her.
In a local newspaper, Dr Dayal said: “We are pursuing many companies for importing the hormone therapy medicine. It can be injected like an insulin but is expensive.”
As per the doctor’s research, the severe early onset obesity (EOO) may be caused by alterations in genes that regulate appetite, body weight and energy homeostasis.
These genes are involved in the control of hunger and satiety through the leptin-melanocortin signalling pathway in the hypothalamus. Of these genes, the most commonly affected is the LEPgene.
Other characteristic manifestations include impaired satiety, intense hyperphagia, a normal birth weight and rapid weight gain during early infancy (1).
These children also develop several hormonal and metabolic abnormalities associated with obesity in older children and adults.