New research links obesity levels with ECEC attendance finding lower risk
The Sector > Research > New research links obesity levels with ECEC attendance finding lower risk

New research links obesity levels with ECEC attendance finding lower risk

by Freya Lucas

June 23, 2022

Children who attend centre-based early childhood settings are less likely to be overweight or obese in later childhood than children who had non-parental childcare that was home-based or provided by relatives or nannies, research from the University of Toronto has found. 


The study looked at the outcomes of children who attended centre-based care between the ages of one and four years, finding that the association between attendance at care and later obesity was stronger for children from lower income families. 


“Although more research is needed, our findings suggest that centre-based childcare may help level socioeconomic-related health disadvantages for children from low-income families,” researcher Michaela Kucab explained.


Ms Kucab presented the findings at NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held 14-16 June 2022.


“We hope this work draws much-needed attention to prioritising centre-based childcare while also encouraging future research on the impact of centre-based childcare on growth and other important health and developmental outcomes in children,” added senior author Dr Jonathon Maguire.


To reach their findings the researchers analysed data from a large, multicultural sample of healthy Canadian children using The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!) primary care research network based in Toronto. 


“One advantage of using data from TARGetKids! is that it began in 2008 and is ongoing, whereas many previous studies have used data collected decades ago,” Ms Kucab explained. “This may have allowed us to capture the effects of the many improvements implemented by modern childcare programs.”


To expand on their findings the researchers are now studying the relationship between centre-based childcare in young children and later nutritional risk, dietary intake and eating behaviors. 


They are also working to implement a clinical trial, called Nutrition Recommendation Intervention Trials in Children’s Health Care (NuRISH), that will leverage the methods used by TARGet Kids! to evaluate whether connecting families with centre-based childcare through the primary health-care system can improve the physical, mental, nutritional and developmental health of children from low-income families. 


Researchers say findings from the trial could be used to inform policy decisions about using centre-based childcare as an intervention to improve health and productivity over the life course.


Readers should note that abstracts presented at NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE were evaluated and selected by a committee of experts but have not generally undergone the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. As such, the findings presented should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication is available.

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