Top chef helps obese children shed pounds

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In the United States, 14% of children younger than 5 are already considered obese. Twenty percent of all kids under the age of 19 are obese.

Adolescence is the time to form healthy habits, and there's a new trend in schools and hospitals to capitalize on the expertise of professionally trained chefs to transform lives.

Priann Franco grew up feeling insecure about her body.

"I would like to wear what other girls wear, but it just made me feel really low and down about myself," Franco said.

At 16 years old and 170 pounds, Franco was ready for change. Her pediatrician recommended the Weight and Wellness programs at AdventHealth in Orlando.

Executive Chef Edwin Cabrera could be the not-so-secret ingredient to this program's success. Trained at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona and formerly with nationally recognized restaurants like Morton's of Chicago and Canyon Ranch Health Spa, he now teaches how to make food taste fantastic and still allow for weight loss.

"We just talk about cholesterol. We just talk about saturated fat. So, they start understanding what to choose," Cabrera said.

Cabrera says the key to healthy eating is prepping ahead of time with a focus on getting key vitamins and minerals from whole foods, not processed foods.

"If you're not eating anything, any fruits and vegetables, it doesn't matter if it's organic or not, because that's what you have to start doing," he said.

After losing 10 pounds and 8 inches around her waist, Franco has donated many of her older, larger clothes to Goodwill.

Her mom, Indira Brown, joined her daughter in the change and has also lost 10 pounds.

"I thought before like broccoli, in my dinner and not rice? But now I say, 'OK, broccoli is cool!" Brown said.

The AdventHealth for Children Weight Management and Wellness program is for kids age 5 to 17, and they must be referred by a pediatrician.

The program lasts six months and is usually covered by insurance, but if not, the self-pay rate is $63.

REPORT #2665

BACKGROUND: The percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity in the United States has
more than tripled since the 1970's. Data now shows from 2015-2016 nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people has obesity. Obesity prevalence is 13.9 percent among 2 to 5-year-olds, 18.4 percent among 6 to 11-year-olds, and 20.6 percent among 12 to 19-year-olds. There are many factors that contribute to childhood obesity including genetics, metabolism, eating and physical activity behaviors, community and neighborhood design and safety, short sleep duration, and negative childhood events. Genetic factors are difficult to change. Changes in the environments where young people spend their time, like homes, schools, and community settings, can make it easier for youth to access nutritious foods and be physically active. Schools can adopt policies and practices that help young people eat more fruits and vegetables, eat fewer foods and beverages that are high in added sugars or solid fats, and increase daily minutes of physical activity. (Source:

SYMPTOMS AND COMPLICATIONS: Not all children carrying extra pounds are considered overweight or obese. Children normally carry different amounts of body fat at various stages of development, and some have larger than average body frames. The body mass index (BMI), which provides a guideline of weight in relation to height, is the accepted measure of overweight and obesity. Your child's physical, social and emotional wellbeing can be seriously affected by obesity. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of type 2 diabetes which affects the way your child's body uses sugar. A cluster of conditions known as metabolic syndrome can put your child at risk of heart disease, diabetes or other health problems including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL ("good") cholesterol and excess abdominal fat. A poor diet can cause your child to develop high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder in which a child's breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which usually shows no symptoms, causes fatty deposits to build up in the liver leading to scarring and liver damage. Furthermore, obese children are more likely to break bones than are children of normal weight, and more likely to have asthma. (Source:

EFFECTIVE ANTI-OBESITY DRUG?: Researchers led by Dr. Atul Chopra, a medical geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine, discovered a new hormone called asprosin, which regulates blood-glucose levels. Studies on the hormone have revealed it also acts on the brain, stimulating the hunger center in the hypothalamus to control appetite and body weight. One of the features that defines a rare medical condition called neonatal progeroid syndrome is extreme thinness or very low body weight. To understand the cause of this issue, Chopra and his colleagues assessed the food intake pattern and metabolic rate of the patients. To investigate how the mutation affected the patients' appetite, the researchers genetically engineered mice to carry the same genetic mutation the patients have. The result was mice that mimicked the human condition; they had low blood asprosin levels, low appetite and were very thin. In addition to studying these individuals who have low levels of asprosin, the researchers also studied individuals with obesity and found that they had increased levels of blood asprosin. "Although we don't yet understand the mechanism behind this increase, it gives us a possible opportunity to treat obesity by regulating blood asprosin levels," Chopra said. (Source: