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Neo
4th April 2011, 11:27 PM
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TORMENTED 16-year-old told last night how a rare genetic condition made her THREE TIMES the size of her twin. Doctors have spent years trying to find out how the twins could be so different.

Now scientists at Cambridge University have discovered that a rare genetic condition is to blame - and Sophie is unique in Britain because sufferers usually die in early childhood.

Student Sophie said: "People call me names like 'fatty' all the time. People shout at me on the street and from their cars.

"I've been chased and had biscuits thrown at me. People have even asked, 'Why do your family still want you?' You learn to live with it but it still hurts. "I have club feet as well which, coupled with my weight, makes it agony to walk. When my friends go out, I'm trapped in my house.

"In a way, being this size and having a twin who looks very different makes things more difficult.

"But Shane is a great brother. He's very supportive - he looks out for me, and looks after me in everything I do."

Sophie, of Malvern, Worcs, added: "I never eat more than a slice of toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and a medium-sized portion of chicken or lasagne for dinner.

"I've always felt there must be another reason for my weight and now we know there is."

Shane eats exactly the same meals as Sophie - plus his own personal "stash" of chocs, biscuits and crisps.

The keen footballer said: "It is very, very hard for Sophie. We look very different but it took a long time for people to take Sophie's case seriously.

"When other people see Sophie in the street and look at her I want to tell them that they should look beyond what they see and get to know the real person.

"As a twin I feel some guilt because I lead a normal life and can go out with my mates but Sophie can't." Sophie Harris watches what she eats but weighs 28st while brother Shane is just 9Ĺst - even though he scoffs more.

Brave Sophie yesterday told how she suffers cruel taunts and daily struggles over her size - while her twin brother runs around the football field.

Incredibly, Sophie eats LESS than sporty Shane - because she has just three normal meals a day and shuns all snacks while he loves crisps, chocs, sweets and cakes. Mum Tracey Woodall, 47, said: "In many ways having a twin makes life more painful as it reminds Sophie of the things she's unable to do.

"But they're very close, Shane worries about her and wants the best for her, and she cares for him too."

Amazingly, Sophie weighed just 4lb 4oz at birth - while Shane was twice her size at 8lb 9oz.

Care worker Tracey added: "Sophie was a tiny baby for the first 12 months, but then started putting weight on dramatically. "Soon she was in the 'danger zone' and nurses were accusing me of overfeeding her even though her twin brother was normal weight. I obviously wasn't giving them two different diets. It was very upsetting."

Doctors carried out a series of tests when Sophie was three, but the cause of her obesity remained a mystery.

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Tracey added: "It was very difficult for years. When I took Sophie to the doctors I'd always take Shane along too.

"I needed them to see that he was so different to his sister when they were both the same age and had been fed the same amount of food. It was very frustrating."

Last year Tracey heard about researchers investigating links between obesity and genetics at Cambridge University's Institute of Metabolic Science.

Blood tests showed Sophie was suffering from the rare melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) gene deficiency.








Contrast ... pair look nothing like siblings in school snap
This means everything Sophie eats is stored as fat, making it impossible for her to shed any weight no matter how much she exercises or restricts her diet.

At the moment there is no cure, although clinical trials in America could lead to new drugs next year. But Sophie, who is planning a career as a mental health professional, says she cannot wait that long.

She said: "I just want to get better as soon as possible. I'm talking to the doctors about what will be best for me. I could have a gastric bypass that may fool my body and help my metabolism." Sophie is the only British person of her size to have her weight problem diagnosed as genetic, and she hit out at people who become obese through greed.

She said: "I didn't choose to be fat, it's because of my genetic make-up.

"I'm annoyed with lazy people who eat loads and become obese - it creates stereotypes and gives people like me a bad name."


Source: thesun.co.uk