A new study in Canada found that children in the center-based nursery between the ages of 1 and 4 had a lower body mass index (BMI) and were less likely to be overweight or obese in childhood than non-parents. Child care provided at home or by relatives or babysitters. These associations were stronger for children from lower-income families.
Although more research is needed, our findings suggest that center-based kindergarten can help offset the socioeconomic disadvantages of low-income families in children. “
Michaela Kucab, St. Graduate student at Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health in Toronto, and University of Toronto, both in Canada
Kucab will present the findings online at NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual general meeting on June 14-16.
“We hope this work will attract much-needed attention to prioritize center-based child care, while at the same time pushing future research into center-based child care in growth and children’s most important health and development outcomes,” said lead author Jonathon Maguire. MD, San Miguel Hospital.
Previous research evaluating the relationship between daycare and obesity has focused primarily on comparing parental care with non-parenting caregivers.
“Given the rise of dual-income families and the fact that many families are facing decisions about child care, our job is to evaluate non-parent kindergartens,” Kucabe said. “We hope that our findings will help parents and policy makers to advocate for and prioritize the best child care environments.”
Researchers analyzed data from a large multicultural sample of healthy Canadian children using the Toronto-based The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!) Primary care research network. They compared the BMI of children aged 4 to 10 compared to those who went to a daycare center based at 1 to 4 years compared to those who went to non-parent daycare centers.
“One of the advantages of using TARGetKids! Data is that it started in 2008 and has been up and running, with many previous studies using data collected decades ago,” Kucabe said. “This will allow us to reap the benefits of many of the improvements implemented by modern nursery programs.”
Exact quiz data collected in TARGetKids! it allowed the researchers to consider a number of variables and analyze important factors, such as the socioeconomic status and the number of hours each child spends in a nursery each week.
The researchers found that children who participated in full-time center-based care had 0.11 lower BMI at 4 and 7 years of age and were less likely to be overweight or obese at age 4 compared to children who did not attend center-based care. Center-based care was attended by children from lower-income families who worked full-time at 0.32 lower BMI and were less likely to be overweight or obese at the age of 10 compared to those who went to center-based care.
“Our findings make sense because health behaviors develop in childhood and can affect the environments in which children find themselves,” Kucabe said. “There may be different factors and childcare practices among childcare arrangements that help explain the effects on childhood growth.”
For example, both Canadian and US kindergartens must follow nutritional guidelines and follow other guidelines for health-related behavior related to physical activity and rest. They also have licensed preschool educators who oversee child care practices and ensure that the program provides appropriate routines for children growing up. Although these factors may contribute to the findings, the researchers cautioned that the research was observational and not designed to assess cause-effect relationships, adding that clinical trials would be needed to confirm causality.
Researchers are now expanding their work by examining the relationship between early childhood center-based kindergarten and then nutritional risk, dietary intake, and eating behaviors. They are also working to establish a clinical trial called the Nutrition Recommendation Intervention Trials in Children’s Health Care (NuRISH), which will take advantage of the methods used by TARGet Kids! Assessing whether connecting families to a center-based nursery through a primary health care system can improve the physical, mental, nutritional, and developmental health of low-income families. Researchers say that the findings of the trial can be used to inform policy decisions about the use of childcare based in centers as an intervention to improve health and productivity throughout life.
American Nutrition Association