Daycare Linked with Childhood Weight Problems


Daycare photo

Young children who attend daycare on a regular basis are 50 percent more likely to be overweight than children that stay with their parents, according to research at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte Justin Hospital Research Center.

"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 on Science Daily. "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."

Weight and Type of Daycare

Researchers followed 1,649 families with kids born between 1997 and 1998 in Quebec. Mothers were interviewed about the care of their kids at 1.5 years, 2.5 years, 3.5 years, and 4 years old. Kids were classified according to the type of care they received the majority of the time. Of those studied 30 percent went to daycare, 35 percent went to family daycare, 11 percent were watched by extended family, five percent by a nanny, and 19 percent stayed with their parents. 

During the following six years kids were measured for height and weight and the results showed that kids were much more likely to be overweight when they stayed most of the time in daycare or with extended family. Reasons for the results aren’t clear but it’s likely that parents don’t have as much control over what their kids consume at daycare or when they are staying with extended family.

"Diet and physical activity are avenues to follow," says Dr. Sylvana Côté on Science Daily, 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." But the degree of control that parents have on diet when their kids aren't with them can be difficult. 

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.









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