Researchers in Quebec have found that small children who go to daycare are 50% more likely to be overweight or obese compared with children who are cared for at home by their parents -- and they don't know why.
The researchers studied 1,649 families with children born in 1997-1998 in Quebec, and interviewed mothers when the children were one and a half, two and a half, three and a half and four years old to ask them about the care their children were receiving.
The children were classified according to what type of care they received most often. Over the following six years, the researchers measured the children's weight and height.
"We found that children whose primary care arrangement between 1.5 and 4 years was in daycare-centre 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," Dr. Marie-Claude Geoffroy, one of the study's authors, said in a press release. "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, conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre, was published in the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers believe that daycare could potentially help reduce weight problems in children by promoting healthy eating and physical activity.