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22 Jul 2017

10-year-old boy overeats due to rare genetic illness, weighs 88kg

Ten-year-old South African child, Caden Benjamin, cannot stop eating because of a rare genetic disorder he suffers from.
Caden Benjamin
The disease leaves him with no option but to eat anything in sight, including rolls of toilet paper and dirt from the floor.

The rare condition is such that no matter how much he eats, he is never full.

Caden, from Standerton in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province, was diagnosed with the disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome.

The condition means he has a constant desire to eat food, which can lead to dangerous weight gain, restricted growth and reduced muscle tone.

The 10-year-old currently weigh 88.9kg. Ideally, he should weigh between 18-40kg, doctors say.

His mother, Zola Benjamin, said: “At one point, Caden was eating toilet paper. He’d eat rolls of it. Actually, he’d eat any paper he would find in the house.

“If there’s nothing for him to eat, he’ll scrape together the dirt he finds on the floor and eat that.”

Prader-Willi syndrome is a rare condition that affects one in every 15,000 children born in England, according to the NHS.

Prader-Willi syndrome is made worse by the fact that sufferers need less food than their peers because their bodies have less muscle and tend to burn fewer calories.

Zola added: “At three years old, he was 39.9kg and at that time, we didn’t know what was wrong with him.

“We went to a number of doctors and no one could tell us what was wrong and why he was gaining so much weight.”

Eventually, a doctor at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in the city of Pretoria, in northern South Africa’s Gauteng Province, diagnosed Caden’s illness.

Zola said: “Normally, he would start off the day by eating four slices of cheese toast and then an hour later, he would drink Coke and eat leftover food from the night before.

“Then at lunch, he’d eat two large pieces of chicken. He’d eat hourly for the rest of the day.”

His weight began to spiral out of control and doctors became worried for his health, so they put him on a diet.

Zola has been forced to lock all her kitchen cabinets and her fridge and hide all the food in the house to stop Caden from gorging.

She said: “He’s really battling. I feel so terrible, but the doctors said that if I want to see my son alive, then he has to go on a diet.

“Each and every day is a battle. I have to check up on him all day and night.”

Caden struggles to move around and to even breathe because he is so overweight.

He also suffers from depression because he is unable to live like a normal 10-year-old boy.

Zola said: “Sometimes, he’ll just break down in tears and tell me he wants to go and play with the other children outside.

“But he is unable to do that and there’s no way I can help him.”

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