There have been many myths told to younger people that drinking too much coffee will stunt growth.
However, this has been proved by science to be false and there is no evidence supporting this hypothesis. The origin of this myth is unknown, but there may have been a short person drinking too much coffee somewhere.
There have been multiple studies done proving that this myth is incorrect. In a study done by The Penn State Young Woman’s Health had the conclusion that dietary caffeine intake is not correlated at all with total bone or hip bone density. There was no difference between the women that had the highest caffeine intake and the least caffeine intake. This study was done with women aged 12 – 18 over six years.
As this study shows drinking coffee by itself will not prevent bones from developing and will not stunt growth. There may be other health issues caused by coffee that may stunt growth…
Coffee can disrupt sleep in adolescents
When consuming caffeine it is a known fact that caffeine will increase alertness and concentration. This is not a good thing when you are trying to sleep. It can interfere with sleep and prevent you from getting REM (restful) sleep.
Due to the adolescents taking longer to break down the caffeine in the body caffeine can stay in the body much longer than expected and disrupt sleep even when consumed in the afternoon.
In a study done with 191 middle school students sleep patterns of those with higher caffeine intake throughout the day were disrupted and caused sleepiness during the day.
Over the long term, a person’s growth will be affected by not having sleep. This is because the growth hormone in adolescents is released during sleep, and if they are not receiving enough sleep the growth hormone is suppressed.
Human growth hormone also known as HGH is naturally produced in the human body in the pituitary gland. It is important in many bodily functions and especially in promoting growth in children. It contributes to growth, strength, muscle mass, and bone strength. Those with growth hormone deficiency have reduced height, weaker muscles, and younger looking faces. This can be caused by lack of sleep.
The body produces human growth hormone 6 – 10 times during a day with the largest release of human growth hormone occurring at night during sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep you will miss these bursts of growth hormone which can account for 50% or more of the daily release of HGH.
Sleep problems due to coffee can hinder HGH production. Coffee prevents you from having slow-wave REM sleep when the human growth hormone is secreted.
How did this coffee stunting growth myth start?
Like most myths people cannot pin down the start of this myth. It was a generally accepted thought that coffee caused bone weakness and reduction in bone mass. This may stem from an old study that was debunked several decades ago. It showed there was a correlation between people who drank coffee and a lack of calcium. There has been new studies showing this correlation is minuscule and would not be enough to stunt bone growth.
The study was also flawed due to the subjects being elderly people whose diets lacked calcium.
Now new studies are showing coffee does not stunt bone growth. This idea that caffeine is bad for health has stuck around, and is not true.
How much Coffee can an adolescent drink?
There isn’t a limit by the FDA or US Government on how much caffeine and coffee you can drink. However there are recommendations by several institutions such as the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends a daily limit. This limit is lower for younger children and increases as they grow older.
A standard cup of coffee contains around 95 mg of caffeine.
|Age||Recommended Caffeine Limit|
|4 – 6 Years Old||45 mg/day or a 1/2 cup of coffee|
|7 – 9 Years Old||62.5 mg/day or 3/4 cup of coffee|
|10 – 12 Years Old||85 mg/day or around 1 cup of coffee|
|12 – 18 Years Old||2.5 mg/kg of body weight/day around 1 – 2 cups of coffee|
The reason there are restrictions for adolescents with caffeine intake is not only because of height. During the teen years during adolescence, the brain is forming new neural connections every day and caffeine may make these networks less efficient. According to a study in PLOS One, young rats that consumed caffeine had delayed brain development. This may also be due to the reduced deep sleep.
It is also linked to the reward center in the brain. Drinking coffee can cause a feedback loop of dopamine and coffee causing addition. This can influence the child’s preferences and get them addicted to drinking coffee at a young age.
So does caffeine really stunt growth?
No. It has been proven that coffee is safe to drink at any age. Compared to other drinks that are available to children such as sodas, energy drinks, and teas, coffee is a healthier option. Depending on how the coffee is prepared it can be healthy and contain antioxidants that are beneficial to the body.
Coffee is perfectly safe for consumption no matter the weight, age, or gender. Your height will be largely determined by the height of your parents and will not be affected by the amount of coffee you drink unless there are other factors in place such as loss of sleep or bad diet.
Eating a balanced diet and avoiding osteoporosis by living a healthy lifestyle is enough to achieve your maximum potential height. Osteoporosis is the weakness of density and quality of bone. The bones become fragile and will easily be damaged with compression fractures. This can reduce the height of anyone with osteoporosis.
If you are suffering from osteoporosis it can be smart to avoid coffee because it may slightly affect you negatively. There have been conflicting results, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
The next time you wonder if you’d be taller if you didn’t drink so much coffee you can blame your genetics instead of those cups of coffee.