Daycare Leads to Overweight Young Children, Suggests Study

First Posted: Nov 19, 2012 02:10 AM EST

All the working parents who consider daycare as a fine option should reconsider sending their kids to the daycare as a new study states that these young children are 50 percent more likely to be overweight.

According to the researchers from the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre, young kids who regularly attend daycare are more prone to be overweight when compared to kids who stay at home with parents.

"We found that children whose primary care arrangement between 1.5 and 4 years was in daycare-center or with an extended family member were around 50% more likely to be overweight or obese between the ages of 4-10 years compared to those cared for at home by their parents," said Dr. Marie-Claude Geoffroy, who led the study. "This difference cannot be explained by known risk factors such as socioeconomic status of the parents, breastfeeding, body mass index of the mother, or employment status of the mother."

In order to prove the hypothesis, the researchers studied 1,649 families with children born in 1997 and 1998 in Quebec. The sample was representative of the majority of Quebec children.

The researchers interviewed the mothers about the care of their children at 1.5 years, 2.5 years, 3.5 years, and 4 years. Based on the type of care the children had spent the most total hours in, the researchers classified the children.

They were classified as 'daycare centre' 30 percent, in 'family daycare' 35 percent, with an 'extended family member' 11 percent, with a 'nanny' 5 percent, or with their 'parents' 19 percent.

During the six years that followed, the researchers measured the children's weight and height. Children with excessive weight or obesity were identified using international standards (IOTF).

But what remains unknown is the mechanism that is responsible for the increased proportion of overweight children in some child care situations.

"Diet and physical activity are avenues to follow," said Dr. Sylvana Cote, who co-directed the study. "Parents don't have to worry; however, I suggest to parents they ensure their children eat well and get enough physical activity, whether at home or at daycare."

According to the researchers, daycare has the potential to reduce weight problems in children, possibly through the promotion of physical activity and healthy eating.

"The enormous potential of the impact of daycare on the nutritional health of children 2-5 years of age was also noted by the Extenso unit of the University of Montreal Nutrition Reference Centre, which has developed a Web portal specifically devoted to children in daycare," said Dr. Jean Seguin, who also co-directed this study.

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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