Canadians parents whose children attend daycare or who are cared for by an extended family member may want to keep close tabs on their kids’ weight, according to a recent study out of Quebec.

Researchers at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre say they’ve made a link between children in daycare and their chances of becoming obese between the ages of four and 10.

“We found that children whose primary care arrangement between 1.5 and 4 years was in daycare-center or with an extended family member were around 50 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese between the ages of 4-10 years compared to those cared for at home by their parents,” lead researcher Dr. Marie-Claude Geoffroy said in a statement Monday.

“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.”

Fellow researcher Sylvana Cote advised parents not to worry, but suggested they “ensure their children eat well and get enough physical activity, whether at home or at daycare.”

The findings were published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

For six years researchers followed 1,649 families with kids born between 1997 and 1998. The children were measured for weight and height at ages four, six, seven, eight and 10.  Their childcare situations broke down as follows: 30 per cent attended daycare; 35 per cent were in a family or home-based daycare; 11 per cent were cared for by an extended family member; five per cent were cared for by a nanny and 19 per cent were cared for at home by their parents.

The study found that children who attended daycare regularly were 65 per cent more likely to become overweight or obese. Kids who were cared for by an extended family member were 50 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese compared to kids who were cared for at home by their parents.

Every increment of five hours spent in either a childcare centre or with a relative per day increased a child’s odds of being overweight or obese by nine per cent, researchers say.

What do you think of these findings? Let us know in the comments.