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Is Your Child's Daycare Making him Fat?

Update Date: Nov 19, 2012 02:05 AM EST

With the rising number of obese children and increasing evidence of obesity causing health issues in children, scientists around the world are constantly working to find the various factors that may be responsible for childhood obesity. A new study by researchers at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre suggests that children left at daycare on a regular basis are 50 percent more likely to be overweight as compared to those who stayed at home with their 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," lead author of the study, Dr. Marie-Claude Geoffroy said.

"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."

For the study, researchers observed 1,649 families in Quebec, with children born from 1997-1998. The researchers quizzed the mothers with questions pertaining to the care of their children at 1.5 years, 2.5 years, 3.5 years and 4 years.

The children involved in the study were categorized in accordance to the type of daycare they were sent to: "daycare centre" (30%), "family daycare" (35%), with an "extended family member" (11%), with a "nanny" (5%), or with their "parents" (19%).

Over the course of 6 years, the researchers followed the measurements of the height and weight of the children. Overweight children were identified with international standards (IOTF).

However, the mechanisms behind the increased proportion of overweight children in some child care situations are unclear, Medical Xpress reported.

"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."

According to 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 Séguin, co-director of the study.

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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