London, June 7: The parents of an 11-year-old boy who is grossly obese at 95.3kg have been arrested and accused of behaving cruelly towards their son and neglecting his welfare.
But the parents of the five-foot-one boy have said there wasn’t much they could have done to produce a slimmer version of their son.
“It’s genetics — you can be genetically fat,” is their explanation.
Police in Norfolk were alerted by doctors at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, after the boy, whose problems were well known to the local social services, was twice brought in for treatment in March.
The boy has a body mass index of 41.9. Anyone whose body mass index — calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in metres — is higher than 25 is overweight. If it’s over 30, the patient is obese.
An unnamed 49-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman, both from the King’s Lynn area, are on bail pending further inquiries, the Norfolk police have confirmed.
The arrest of the parents for alleged cruelty and child neglect is certainly unprecedented. But the doctors who examined the child obviously believed that much of the blame for allowing him to get so obese rested with the parents.
The boy’s parents spent 50 minutes in a police cell following their arrest. His mother said the family had made efforts to reduce the boy’s weight, for example, by encouraging him to play active games on his Nintendo Wii console.
“The idea (that) they could take away my son scares me so much,” she told The Sun. “His weight isn’t that much of a big deal. I’m chubby and the whole of my husband’s side of the family is big.”
According to the boy’s father, “He’s always been big. He was born with shovels for hands and spades for feet. Everyone on my side of the family is big, there’s nothing we can do about it. Our son’s favourite snack is steamed broccoli — and he’s still big.”
A police spokesperson said officers from the child abuse investigation unit were working closely with health and social services to deal with “sensitive issues such as obesity and neglect of a child”.
“Any action taken by any agency will be subject to a joint strategy between all partner agencies and will always be taken with the welfare of the child and their protection from harm as paramount,” the spokesperson said.
“While it is inappropriate to comment on this case specifically, it is important to stress that intervention at this level is very rare and will only occur where other attempts to protect the child have been unsuccessful.”
A five-year-old girl was taken into care in Wales in 2012. She weighed 65.8kg — more than three times the weight of a healthy child her age — in August 2012 and was put into foster care.
One study has suggested that children, especially boys, whose parents have divorced are more likely to be obese.
The researchers said the possible explanations could be a lower household income, an over-reliance on unhealthy convenience foods, less time spent on domestic tasks such as cooking, and the emotional fallout of a divorce.
These days the problem of obesity also extends to pets. A vet charity in Britain runs the Pet Fit Club and encourages animal owners to get their pets into shape. It is thought that around one in three dogs and one in four cats are overweight, which can reduce the duration and quality of their lives.
Elaine Pendlebury, a senior veterinary surgeon, said: “Obesity is one of the biggest welfare issues affecting pets in the UK today. Sadly, it also means millions of pets are at risk from potentially life-threatening health problems related to obesity.”
Pendlebury added: “But the good news is that obesity is entirely reversible. With veterinary advice and guidance it is never too late to try and improve a pet’s quality of life by tackling weight problems.”