Do Child Care Centres Promote Obesity?

One of the often ignored factors in the childhood obesity epidemic is the fact that working parents have less time to devote themselves to the nutritional and emotional needs of their children than in families with at least one stay-at-home parent.

This has, in some circles led to discussions whether such parental home care can be replaced by putting the kids in childcare centres.

A study by Marie-Claude Geoffroy and colleagues from the University College London, UK, published in the Journal of Pediatrics now reports that preschool daycare may substantially increase the risk for overweight and obesity in kids.

The study looks at 1600 kids enrolled in a prospective birth cohort in Quebec, Canada with information on child care arrangements (center-based/family-based/care by a relative/nanny) and other relevant variables at ages 1.5, 2.5, 3.5, and 4 years in relationship to measured weights and heights at ages 4, 6, 7, 8, and 10 years of age.

Despite adjusting for several potential confounding factors (including socioeconomic position, breastfeeding, maternal employment, and maternal body mass index), children who attended a center-based childcare were about 65% more likely to be overweight or obese in childhood (4-10 years) than kids in parental care.

Similarly, kids cared for by a relative were about 50% more likely to be overweight or obese.

Further analyses suggested that for each increment of 5 hours spent in either center-based or relative childcare, the odds of overweight/obesity in the first decade of life increased by 9%.

As the authors point out, it may be time to carefully scrutinize the “obesogeonic” features of childcare arrangements in comparison to parental care.

As noted previously on these pages, when parents have more important issues to deal than being home to raise their kids, their offspring may well be at increased risk of obesity – a fact that is often lost (or rather ignored) in public health discussion on the the root causes of the childhood obesity epidemic.

I wonder how my readers feel about the impact of non-parental childcare on childhood weight management.

Edmonton, Alberta

ResearchBlogging.orgGeoffroy MC, Power C, Touchette E, Dubois L, Boivin M, Séguin JR, Tremblay RE, & Côté SM (2012). Childcare and Overweight or Obesity over 10 Years of Follow-Up. The Journal of pediatrics PMID: 23140878