Newspapers all around the world carried the picture of 8-month-old Chahat Kumar (Punjab, India), who was overweight and obese at the time, weighing up to 17 kg, or the equivalent of a child between 4 and 5 years

In 2017, the image of Chahat Kumar, a little girl from Punjab, India, with an oversized chubby body, spread widely across global newspapers, attracting considerable attention and concern. At just eight months old, Chahat weighed 17 kg (equivalent to the weight of a 4-5 year old child), earning her the nickname “child sumo.” The striking images and reports of her weight led many to worry about her health and well-being.

Chahat was born as a normal, healthy baby. However, around the age of four months, her weight began to increase uncontrollably, causing significant worry for her family. By eight months, she weighed 17 kg, primarily due to an insatiable appetite. Her mother, Reena, 21, reported that Chahat’s daily food intake was four times that of a normal child her age. Reena mentioned, “She doesn’t eat like a normal child. It keeps eating and not being full. If we give nothing, the baby starts to cry. Many times she asked to go out, but because it was too heavy, my wife and I only took her to places close to home.”

Chahat’s rapid and excessive weight gain significantly impacted her family’s daily life. At less than a year old, she was so heavy that her mother could not carry her, and her father had to manage her care. Due to her weight, Chahat was restricted to playing around the house, as carrying her anywhere was challenging. Her obesity also caused numerous health issues, including breathing and sleep problems. When her parents sought medical help, doctors were perplexed by her condition. Her unusually hard skin made blood tests difficult, complicating the diagnosis process.

Dr. Vasudev Sharma, who treated Chahat, stated, “Since the day I became a doctor, I have never seen a case like Chahat’s. Due to the thick layer of fat inside and the unusually hard skin making blood tests very difficult, we tried many times but the results were not very positive.” Despite numerous tests and medical consultations, Chahat’s condition remained puzzling.

After gaining widespread attention, journalists frequently visited Chahat’s home to provide updates on her condition. Unfortunately, even after several years, her weight problem persisted. By the age of two, Chahat’s weight had increased to over 50 kg, making it impossible for her to walk unaided. Both her parents had to support her whenever they needed to move her.

The family’s efforts to seek help included raising funds from the community, which enabled them to consult doctors at larger hospitals. Medical professionals eventually identified the cause of her obesity as a deficiency of the hormone leptin. Leptin, often referred to as the “energy consumption hormone,” helps regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, which in turn prevents obesity. Chahat’s deficiency in this hormone meant her body could not release energy effectively, leading to severe weight gain. This condition is extremely rare, with only about 50 known cases worldwide, making Chahat one of the few individuals affected by this disorder.

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