Extremely heavy and overweight individuals have appeared throughout history. First-century Roman physician Galen refers to Nicomachus of Smyrna, who was bedridden because of his weight. A wall relief from the ancient Egyptian site at Karnak near Luxor includes an obese man with folds of fat. And based on statues like The Venus of Willendorf, we can assume that humans have been overweight since prehistoric times as well.
That said, over the past century, there has been a significant increase in public interest surrounding hugely obese people. And for this, we can mainly thank the media – whether it be sensationalist coverage and public weigh-ins, or the pressures of staying thin put so prominently in our faces.
Recording weight accurately is also a 20th- and 21st-century phenomenon, and because of this, we may never know exactly whom the heaviest man or woman ever to have lived was. Still, read on for the 10 heaviest people in recorded history.
10. Kenneth Brumley (1968 –)
In 2010, Texan native Kenneth Brumley was featured on the UK Channel 4 BodyShock documentary Half Ton Dad. As a child and teenager, Brumley was a keen sportsman, but when he temporarily moved to California at the age of 19, he gave up playing sports and his weight began to mount up.
At his heaviest, the father of four weighed nearly 1,033 lbs (469 kg) and was reportedly consuming in excess of 30,000 calories a day. Bedridden for four years, Brumley was eventually taken to the Renaissance Hospital in Houston for gastric bypass surgery. Incredibly, in order to get to him, fire crews had to break down a wall of his house.
As part of Brumley’s treatment, he was restricted to a daily diet of 1,200 calories. Following additional dieting and gastric surgery, he has shifted 489 lbs (222 kg), and he now weighs a slightly more manageable 531 lbs (241 kg), which has allowed him to stand for a short while unaided.
9. Mayra Rosales (1980 –)
Texan woman Mayra Rosales once weighed an incredible 1,036 lbs (470 kg). Today, at least, she’s closer to 756 lbs (343 kg). In 2008, Rosales gained a small amount of media notoriety after the suspicious death of her two-year-old nephew, Eliseo Rosales Jr.
Eliseo was admitted to hospital in La Joya, TX with breathing problems. At first, Mayra claimed that she had killed him by accidentally falling on him and squashing him with her arm. However, when medical staff discovered that the actual cause of death was a trauma to the head, they began to doubt Mayra’s clumsy confession. This is because, at that point, she was so heavy that her lawyer claimed she wouldn’t have been able to raise her arm high enough to strike the boy with the force needed to cause such a devastating injury.
In the end, it emerged that Mayra’s sister, Jamie Lee, the mother of Eliseo, had hit him with a hairbrush and Mayra was covering for her. Jamie Lee was eventually tried and jailed for the murder of her son, but the stress of the trial meant that Mayra was confined to a hospital bed for the super-obese as her health worsened.
8. Robert Earl Hughes (1926 – 1958)
While he was alive, Illinois-born Robert Earl Hughes was the heaviest recorded man in the world. At his peak, he weighed a whopping 1,071 lbs (486 kg), and his chest was recorded as being 10.3 feet (3.15 m) wide.
Hughes’s obesity was blamed on a malfunctioning thyroid gland. As a baby, he contracted whooping cough and is said to have ruptured his thyroid gland during a coughing fit, which caused him to pile on the pounds dramatically. However, this explanation was never confirmed.
Eventually, Hughes appeared at fairs and carnivals as a kind of freak for hire. In 1958, while he was touring Indiana with the Gooding Bros. Amusement Company, he contracted measles. The condition deteriorated into uremia and ultimately led to his death. Hughes was 32 years old.
According to legend, Hughes was buried in a piano case; in reality, it was a custom-built coffin. His headstone noted his status as the world’s heaviest man.
7. Patrick Deuel (1962 –)
Patrick Deuel was born in Grand Island, Nebraska in 1962, and at his heaviest, he weighed 1,126 lbs (511 kg). In 2005, Deuel was the subject of a Discovery Health documentary, which revealed that he hadn’t left his house for seven years – and that he also hadn’t left his bed for seven months at that point.
Deuel was so heavy that he had to lie on his front so he didn’t crush his organs. His health was also declining quickly, and gastric bypass surgery seemed like the only way to achieve the drastic weight loss he needed to avoid inevitable death.
The documentary recorded the process of getting Deuel from his house to the hospital, which included knocking down his bedroom wall and hiring a special ambulance to move him. Following his surgery, Deuel lost 570 lbs (259 kg). He kept losing weight and slimmed down to a relatively impressive 370 lbs (168 kg). However, he subsequently started to put on weight again and stubbornly refuses to stop smoking and eating unhealthy food. His most recent recorded weight was 560 lbs (254 kg) and he has diabetes and congestive heart failure.
6. Michael Hebranko (1953 –)
Staten Island resident Michael Hebranko has gained notoriety as the world’s most famous yo-yo dieter, having gained and lost a staggering 4,004 lbs (1,816 kg) over the past 25 years. In the late ‘80s, Hebranko was hospitalized weighing 910 lbs (413 kg), but with the help of diet and exercise coach Richard Simmons, he managed to slim down to 200 lbs (91 kg). Incredibly, his waist size went from 114 inches (290 cm) to 35.8 inches (91 cm) in 19 months. The staggering load shed even made the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records as the “Highest Recorded Weight Loss.”
Although he appeared on various chat shows in both the United States and Britain to publicize his rapid weight loss, Hebranko began eating unhealthily again when he took a day off to celebrate his success and thus fell off the wagon. His weight gradually increased to 1,000 lbs (454 kg), and in June 1999 he ballooned up to 1,100 lbs (499 kg). As you can imagine, the toll on his health has been considerable. Lately, at least, Hebranko has managed to slim back down to 550 lbs (249 kg).
5. Rosalie Bradford (1943 – 2006)
As a self-confessed “foodaholic,” Rosalie Bradford ate to battle her depression. Bradford was abandoned by her mother and sent into foster care. And when her foster mother died, Bradford ate to deal with the grief. By the age of 15, she weighed 309 lbs (140 kg).
Following her marriage and the birth of her son, Bradford found her weight and appetite escalating even further and tried dieting, but with little success. Then, when a blood infection left her bedbound, she gained weight for eight years and reached a scale-busting 1,199 lbs (544 kg) in 1987.
By this stage, Bradford was seriously depressed, and she attempted suicide with painkillers in 1988. Ironically, in the end, her size saved her life, as the painkillers only managed to knock her out for a few days.
Like Hebranko, Bradford turned to fitness guru Richard Simmons. With Simmons’s help, she went on to set a new Guinness World Record for the most weight lost by a woman, having shed 917 lbs (416 kg).
After reducing her weight to less than 300 lbs (136 kg), Bradford gave advice to other people struggling to lose large amounts of weight, including Patrick Deuel. However, on November 29, 2006, she died, close to her Auburndale, Florida home, at the age of 63.
4. Walter Hudson (1944 – 1991)
In September 1987, Brooklyn-born man Walter Hudson gained publicity when the media exposed the drastic measures needed to rescue him following a bad fall. Hudson slipped on his way back from the bathroom and became wedged in a doorway. He was stuck for hours, and it took eight people to free him and return him to his bed.
The incident attracted the attention of nutritionist Dick Gregory, who used Hudson to promote a diet system that he had designed. According to Gregory, Hudson initially tipped the scales at 1,200 lbs (544 kg) and lost between 200 lbs (91 kg) and 800 lbs (363 kg) on his diet. However, this is thought to have been an exaggeration.
Hudson said that his regular daily intake consisted of “two boxes of sausages, one pound of bacon, 12 eggs, a loaf of bread, four hamburgers and four double cheeseburgers, eight large portions of fries, three ham steaks or two chickens, four baked potatoes, four sweet potatoes, four heads of broccoli, most of a large cake, and additional snacks.”
In the end, Hudson died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1991. He was 46 years old. At the time of his death, he reportedly weighed 1,125 lbs (510 kg) and was buried in a special coffin reinforced with steel.
3. Carol Yager (1960 – 1994)
To date, Michigan native Carol Yager is the heaviest woman in recorded history. Yager claimed that her initial weight gain was a response to sexual abuse by someone in her family. However, she also claimed that she ate normal portions of food. Sinisterly, she once said that there were “monsters” lurking in her closet as well.
In early 1993, Yager was admitted to hospital suffering from cellulitis and immunodeficiency. At the time, she weighed 1,189 lbs (539 kg). During her three-month stay in hospital, she lost 521 lbs (236 kg) due to a restricted diet of 1,200 calories. However, once she was discharged she regained this weight and more.
At her peak, Yager’s boyfriend claimed she weighed over 1,600 lbs (726 kg), although this was never confirmed. Before her death, she was hospitalized 13 times in two years, which required a team of up to 20 firefighters to extract her from her house each time.
Towards the end of her life, Yager was refused hospitalization because her condition was misdiagnosed as not critical. A few weeks later, she died of kidney failure at the age of 34. Other factors contributing to her death included “morbid obesity” and “multiple organ failure.” Her weight was recorded as 1,200 lbs (544 kg) at the time of her death.
2. Manuel Uribe (1965 – )
Born in Monterrey, Mexico in 1965, Manuel Uribe is currently the heaviest human being alive. As a child, Uribe claims to have been mildly obese, but his weight escalated rapidly when he was in his 20s. At one point, he set up a taco stall and ended up eating all the supplies his wife had made.
When Uribe moved to the United States to find employment, he took a job as a typewriter repairman and began to gain even more weight. His weight peaked at around 1,320 lbs (599 kg) and he has been bedridden since 2001. Having turned down offers of gastric bypass surgery, Uribe lost a remarkable 400 lbs (181 kg) following a diet that restricted his intake to 2,000 calories a day.
In 2008, he traveled to his second wedding on a specially reinforced bed adorned with gold and cream. “I am proof you can find love in any circumstances. It’s all a question of faith. I have a wife and will form a new family and live a happy life,” said Uribe.
Incredibly, Uribe is still continuing to shed the pounds, and in early 2012 his weight was recorded as 440 lbs (200kg).
1. Jon Brower Minnoch (1941 – 1983)
In 1979, Jon Brower Minnoch weighed an estimated 1,400 lbs (635 kg). By then, it took a team of 13 people just to roll him over in bed and change his linen. The Bainbridge Island, WA man suffered terribly from a condition called generalized edema, which is thought to have contributed substantially to his bulk in the form of retained fluid.
Following major water loss during a 16-month stint in hospital and a strict diet of 1,200 calories, Minnoch reduced his weight to 476 lbs (216 kg) – the biggest recorded weight loss in human history. However, he was hospitalized again after he gained 200 lbs (91 kg) in a week.
With Minnoch’s condition being difficult to treat and ultimately incurable, medical professionals decided to stop treating him and he died 23 months later at the age of 41. At the time of his death, Minnoch weighed nearly 800 lbs (363 kg). And, at his peak weight, he remains the heaviest human being ever recorded.
–By Vicky Mcintyre