Kids who are placed in daycare often have a fifty percent higher chance of becoming obese than children who stay home with their parents, claims a study from researchers at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine-Hospital Research Center, published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Dr. Marie-Claude Geoffroy, lead author of the study, explained:

"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. 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."

The study involved 1,649 families with kids born in Québec between 1997 and 1998. The experts interviewed their moms regarding how their children were taken care of at ages 1.5, 2.5, 3.5, and 4.

The children were categorized based on the kind of care they had and where they spent the majority of their time:
  • 5% with a nanny
  • 11% - with an extended person of the family
  • 19% - with their parents
  • 30% - daycare center
  • 35% - family daycare
Over the next 6 years, the authors calculated the kids' height and weight levels. Using international standards (IOTF), the researchers identified those who was overweight or obese.

Today, the factors responsible for the higher chances of obesity among children in daycare are still not known.

Dr. Sylvana Côté, co-director of the study, commented:

"Diet and physical activity are avenues to follow. 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."

The experts think that daycare could actually decrease obesity problems if they pushed the topics of eating healthy and exercising.

"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", continued Dr. Jean Séguin, another co-director of the study.

Written by Christine Kearney