About 7 out of 10 Americans drink coffee at least once a week, and 62% drink coffee every day.
If you’re one of the many coffee drinkers in the United States, you may be wondering whether drinking coffee can stunt your growth or make you short.
Whether you’re a teen or an adult coffee drinker, it’s a common worry, so let’s delve into it and separate fact from fiction.
Does Coffee Make You Short?
There are two components to this question.
The first is whether caffeine intake can stunt the growth of children and teenagers.
The second is whether increased caffeine intake can make adults shorter than they are.
The answer to both is no.
Caffeine consumption has no direct impact on the height of either adults or teenagers.
Before getting into how being a regular coffee drinker can affect growing kids and teenagers, let’s discuss the myth that coffee consumption can make adults shorter.
There has been a weak link shown between caffeinated beverages and osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition that can lead to kyphosis, scoliosis, and other curvatures of the spine.
Those conditions can lead to a compressed spine and a slight loss of height.
However, it is critical to note that an increased intake of coffee or any other caffeinated beverage doesn’t lead directly to osteoporosis.
Instead, there have been studies that suggest that it can slightly decrease calcium levels in your body.
That increases the overall risk for osteoporosis, especially in older adults.
However, even that link is inconclusive.
According to Harvard Health, other studies suggest that coffee intake might not cause the body to eliminate calcium at increased levels.
Instead, people who drink coffee tend to drink less milk, even if they drink coffee with milk/cream instead of black coffee.
If true, caffeine may have no negative effect on calcium absorption.
Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?
Again, the answer is no. If your child has an increased caffeinated soft drink intake, or even if they drink a lot of coffee, it will have no direct impact on their growth.
However, drinking a lot of coffee can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, a lack of sleep, and other problems.
On average, teenagers who drink caffeine sleep 40 minutes less per night.
When you’re growing, every bit of sleep matters for growth.
The time of day when you drink caffeine matters, too.
Studies show that drinking 400 mg of caffeine as far out as six hours before bedtime can lead to one hour less of sleep!
Caffeine may help you wake up in the morning, but that also means that it can disrupt your sleep cycle when you drink it later in the day.
If you drink too much coffee, you may find it hard to fall asleep or get as much deep sleep as before.
As an adult, this may not matter – you’ll just drink more coffee the next day.
However, that cycle is terrible for teenagers, as they need at least 8-9 hours of sleep to reach their full growth potential.
Does Caffeine Stunt Brain Growth?
Not directly, but there is some truth to this belief.
As mentioned, caffeine can significantly interfere with your child’s or teenager’s sleep cycle. Getting enough sleep is critical for brain development as it matures.
Furthermore, there is some evidence that caffeine can interfere with the neural connections formed in the brain.
During adolescence, while the brain is maturing, it has more neural connections than it will ever have later in life.
Too much caffeine can prevent the brain from wiring properly, so to speak, and teenagers can be more susceptible to stress and addiction.
Does Coffee Stunt Your Baby’s Growth?
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, consuming caffeine while pregnant, even in small amounts, may lead to an increased risk of fetal growth restriction.
In other words, drinking caffeine while pregnant can stunt a baby’s growth in the womb and cause it to be born smaller than expected.
However, if you read the study, you’ll notice that the risk increases the more you consume caffeine.
If you only have a cup of coffee a day, the risk is still relatively small.
The research is still new, but it’s best to limit your caffeine intake to 200 mg a day when pregnant, according to the American Pregnancy Organization.
If you can limit it to 100 mg a day, that’s even better.
Does Coffee Really Stunt Kids’ Growth?
No, coffee won’t stunt your child’s growth.
Genetics is the most important factor for growth, and nutrition comes in a close second.
Caffeine intake isn’t a factor.
However, that doesn’t mean coffee is healthy for kids.
Too much caffeine can lead to increased anxiety and stress in kids as well as unhealthy sleep cycles.
Too little sleep may lead to slightly stunted growth due to decreased levels of human growth hormone.
It can also prevent your kid from focusing on their studies.
Over the long term, caffeine addiction can lead to problems like high blood pressure.
By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of the risks of caffeine for kids and teenagers, but you’ll also know that coffee doesn’t directly stunt height in either minors or adults.
Nevertheless, many people still believe the myth that caffeine will cause you to become short.
Separating Truth From Fiction
Because there are so many studies about the effects of caffeine, it’s easy to get confused between fact and fiction.
The internet isn’t helping things – forum posters on Reddit and elsewhere may claim that coffee stunts growth, without any evidence to back that up.
What is true is that coffee can interfere with sleep.
However, sleep is just a minor factor when it comes to growth, especially when compared to genetics and healthy nutrition.
If you feel like you’re not growing, you can ask a doctor for advice, but don’t worry – it’s probably just your DNA and has nothing to do with coffee consumption.
Where Did This Short Myth Come From?
The “short myth” may stem from studies published decades ago linking caffeine to osteoporosis.
Somehow, some people saw that and made the incorrect conclusion that drinking coffee will cause a child to stop growing.
Furthermore, some parents may have realized the effects of coffee on sleep and overestimated the role sleep plays in growth.
What Can Actually Stunt Your Growth?
Genetics will always be the determining factor for growth.
If both of your parents (and your grandparents) were short, you’ll likely be short as well, compared to the rest of the population.
However, nutrition also plays an important factor.
Many American children get enough nutrition for proper growth.
As a result, they don’t reach their full height potential.
According to the World Health Organization, poor maternal nutrition and a lack of proper breastfeeding can lead to stunted growth, as can chronic infections that interfere with growth cycles.
It’s rare, but some children may also have a growth hormone deficiency, which can be fixed with supplementation.
Does Tea Stunt Your Growth?
Like coffee, tea has no impact on your growth.
It does, however, have many health benefits and a much lower caffeine content than coffee.
Green tea has even less caffeine than black tea.
However, be careful about giving tea to your kids – as mentioned, caffeine can interfere with their sleep.
Instead, buy decaffeinated or herbal tea.
So What Does Coffee Do to You?
Coffee blocks adenosine from binding to A1 receptors in your brain, which is what makes you feel tired.
Since the adenosine can’t bind to your A1 receptors, you will feel more awake.
It doesn’t directly interact with the growth process, and as long as you get enough calcium from your diet, you probably don’t have to worry about it causing osteoporosis, either.
The Risks and Benefits of Coffee
Coffee is beneficial for adults – in moderation.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, drinking one to two cups of coffee a day can reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, certain cancers, and other diseases.
Furthermore, it can sharpen your brain and reduce the risk of dementia.
On the flip side, too much coffee can lead to increased stress levels, lack of sleep, and a decreased appetite.
You can usually recognize the symptoms of a caffeine overdose – many adults report feeling “coffee jitters” or heightened anxiety.
How Much Caffeine Is Okay Each Day?
According to the Mayo Clinic, caffeine is generally safe in amounts of up to 400 mg a day.
A cup of brewed coffee contains around 100 mg, so that’s four cups per day.
Black tea contains less than half of that, while green tea can contain as little as 20 mg.
That means eight cups of black tea a day should still be safe.
If you drink a lot of coffee, don’t worry! It won’t make you shorter, and a few cups of coffee a day provides many health benefits to adults.
However, caffeine is not generally recommended for children and teens, even though it likely won’t stunt growth, so switch them to decaffeinated beverages instead.