Is daycare making your kids overweight?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Could day-care be making your kids overweight?
Children whose primary care arrangement was in daycare-center or with an extended family member were found to be around 50 per cent more likely to be overweight...

It's common for parents to feel pangs of guilt when dropping kids off at daycare, and new research will only make matters worse.

A recent study has found that leaving children at nurseries between the ages of one and four may encourage obesity, with school children 50 per cent more likely to be overweight than those who stayed at home with parents.

The study by the University of Montreal found that children left in the care of relatives also had a significantly higher risk of obesity.

Dr Marie-Claude Geoffroy, the study leader, said: "We found that children whose primary care arrangement between 1.5 and four years was in daycare-center or with an extended family member were around 50 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese between the ages of four and 10 years compared to those cared for at home by their parents."

The research, which was based on 1,649 families in Quebec with children born between 1997 and 1998, did not identify reasons for the difference in weight, but factors such as unhealthy meals, regular snacking and lack of exercise are all thought to play a role.

"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," Dr Geoffroy said.

Certainly, exercise and access to healthier options for snacks and meals are considered key to ensuring children of this age sustain good health and an optimum weight.

"Diet and physical activity are avenues to follow," says Dr Sylvana Côté, 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."

Related video: Parents told children under five need at least three hours of exercise a day.

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