A new study in Canada found that children who visit childcare centers between the ages of 1 and 4 have a lower body mass index (BMI) and are less likely to be overweight or obese. in later childhood than non-parent children. care for children who are at home or provided by relatives or nannies. These associations are stronger for children from lower-income families.
Although more research is needed, our findings show that childcare based at the center can help equalize socio-economic disadvantages for children from low-income families. “
Michaela Kukab, a graduate student at St. Michael’s Hospital, a website of Unity Health Toronto and the University of Toronto, both in Canada
Kucab will present the results online at NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE, the leading annual meeting of the American Nutrition Society, held June 14-16.
“We hope that this work draws much-needed attention to prioritizing center-based childcare, while promoting future research on the impact of childcare at the center on growth and other important outcomes for children’s health and development,” he said. author of the study Jonathan Maguire, Ph.D., of St. Michael’s Hospital.
Previous studies assessing the link between childcare attendance and obesity have focused mainly on comparing parental care with orphanages.
“Given the increase in double-income families and the fact that many families are facing decisions about childcare, our work was aimed at evaluating orphanages,” Kukab said. “We hope that our findings can help parents and politicians to advocate for and prioritize the best childcare environments.”
The researchers analyzed data collected from a large multicultural sample of healthy Canadian children using the Toronto-based primary care research network The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!). They compared the BMI of children aged 4 to 10 for those who visited childcare centers between the ages of 1 and 4 compared to those who visited other environments without parental care.
“One of the benefits of using TARGetKids data! is that it started in 2008 and continues, while many previous studies have used data collected decades ago, “said Kukab. “This may have allowed us to capture the effects of the many improvements implemented by modern child care programs.”
Detailed questionnaire data collected in TARGetKids! made it possible for researchers to take into account many variables and to study important factors such as socio-economic status and the number of hours per week that each child spends in a childcare environment.
The researchers found that children who attended full-time care at the center had a 0.11 lower BMI between the ages of 4 and 7 and were less likely to be overweight or obese at age 4 than children attending out-of-center care. Children from lower-income families who attend full-time care in the center have 0.32 lower BMIs and are less likely to be overweight or obese at age 10 than those who attend out-of-center care.
“Our findings make sense because healthy behaviors develop in early childhood and can be influenced by the environment in which children encounter,” Kukab said. “There may be key factors and care practices that differ between child care arrangements that help explain the effects on childhood growth.”
For example, children’s centers in both Canada and the United States must follow dietary guidelines and adhere to other guidelines for healthy behavior related to physical activity and rest. They also have licensed early childhood educators who monitor child care practices and ensure that programs provide routine procedures appropriate for growing children. Although these factors may contribute to the findings, the researchers note that the study was observational and not intended to assess causal relationships, adding that clinical trials will be needed to confirm the causal relationship.
Researchers are now expanding their work by studying the relationship between childcare at the center for young children and later nutrition risk, dietary intake and eating behavior. They are also working to conduct a clinical trial called Child Health Nutrition Recommendation Intervention Trials (NuRISH), which will use the methods used by TARGet Kids! to assess whether connecting families with childcare centers through the primary health care system can improve the physical, mental, nutritional and health development of children from low-income families. Researchers say the findings of the study could be used to inform policy decisions about the use of childcare at the center as an intervention to improve health and productivity throughout life.
American Nutrition Society