Some Morbidly Obese Children


Two years ago a very sad story came out of Australia, concerning the investigation of the death of a hospitalized child four years earlier. The 10-year-old boy (not identified by name) weighed over 70 kg., or nearly 155 pounds. He suffered from sleep apnea, and cardio-respiratory arrest led to fatal brain injury. The narrative is not totally clear, but apparently the youngster was found unconscious, and stopped breathing on the way to the hospital, where he was put on life support and died 12 days later.

When he was hospitalized, the boy had missed 103 days of the current school year, and 101 days of the previous school year. At age 7 he had weighed 110 pounds. Officials who reviewed the case came away feeling that not enough had been done to help. Recommendations were made for the establishment of a “dedicated childhood weight management and child protection units” at John Hunter Hospital, which does not seem to have happened so far.

A news story says:

Deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott […] outlined the litany of failures that led to the death including the parents’ failure to take the child to doctors’ appointments and a breakdown in communication between health officials and the Department of Family and Community Services.

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom’s National Child Measurement Programme found that the heftiest child in its jurisdiction weighed more than 220 pounds, with a BMI of 41.2. In West London alone, 19 children were found to be at risk of morbid obesity.

In all of England, 475 6th-graders were identified as having a BMI of 35 or higher. Kim Roberts, of the anti-obesity charity known as HENRY, expressed concern for the national budget and told reporters:

It is vital that programmes like HENRY that are proven to successfully help families live healthier lifestyles don’t fall victim to local government spending cuts or we will be storing up a ticking time-bomb for the NHS to deal with and pick up the bill once these children have become adults and develop health problems commonly associated with obesity such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Benjamin Judd describes how a 1935 British newsreel…

[…] shows that healthy eating, diets and food awareness has been an issue long before things like Pokemon and Happy Meals were invented and enough of a cause celebre to be the source of sensationalist news.

Leslie Bowles, the heaviest baby in the world, was unable to walk at age 3 because his legs could not hold up the rest of his body. Yet he was said to be in “perfect health,” according to some unspecified standard. His segment was called “A Ten Stone Baby,” which translates to 140 pounds on this side of the Atlantic ocean.

It is not the child’s size that is so disturbing, says Judd, but…

It’s how quickly the narrator’s tone becomes mocking, and even cruel, with Bowles the subject of jokes and innuendos regarding his size. One particularly grim moment towards the end when what is presumably a doctor makes Bowles jump for a chocolate bar and pats him on the head like a pet.

At age 42 Bowles died at his workplace after an accident involving a crane. If he was still obese, this comes as no surprise, because aside from possible difficulty in moving quickly, he might have been afflicted by hearing loss.

Another “World’s Biggest Boy” also disappeared from the news after brief notoriety. One very large teenager, the singer Justin Williamson, seems to be doing well. An October 19 “Saving Justin” Facebook page update written by his mom, Julie Crawford Williamson, thanks a great number of people, and says:

Justin was 580 lbs the day of surgery and today one year later, Justin weighs 384 lbs and is a healthy, happy college student majoring in Music performance.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coroner calls for childhood weight management after obese boy’s death,”, 09/26/14
Source: “Morbidly obese at the age of 11: Childhood obesity in west London,”, 03/09/16
Source: “Vintage newsreel shows childhood obesity not only a modern condition,”, 04/08/16
Source: “Saving Justin,”, 10/19/16
Image source: “Saving Justin,” Facebook

One Response

  1. Leslie Bowles was obese due to dyspituitarism, not diet. The rest of his family, including siblings, was normal sized. He weighed 7 lbs at birth. According to what I have been able to find, his vital signs were normal, despite his size.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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